Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Phil Fox Rose: 7 Steps to Meditation

Thanks to Beyond Blue reader Barbara Bowman who is always turning me on to new spiritual authors and thinkers. She and many other regular readers know that I am on a forever quest to meditate. But this article she lead me to, by Phil Fox Rose, may be simple enough to get me started. Phil writes for the hip website I’ve mentioned on Beyond Blue several times, You can get to his entire insightful piece on meditation by clicking here. Below, I’ve excerpted his seven simple steps to get started on Centering Prayer. 


There are many forms of meditation. I believe Centering Prayer is particularly good for cultivating surrender to and acceptance of God’s Will in my life, but if a different practice speaks to you, or if your friend or church offers support in another form, consider that. I discourage you, though, from any practice that’s goal-oriented, complicated or overly attached to form. As Thomas Merton said, “Contemplative prayer has to be always very simple, confined to the simplest of acts.”

If you don’t know where to start, I offer this simple framework, from my Centering Prayer tradition:

1. Choose a sacred word, one or two syllables, with spiritual meaning but not distractingly important to you. — Mine is “Oneness.”


2. Sit comfortably. — I kneel with a sitting cushion, or sit in a chair, as long as I can plant my feet with my back supported. I don’t believe in sitting uncomfortably.

3. Time 20 minutes. Use a method where you don’t have to check. — I use a timer. You can record 20 minutes of silence followed by a sound and hit play. There are also expensive meditation clocks, and I’m going to check out one of the iPhone apps that does everything they do for a few dollars. (If you can’t do 20 minutes at first, do less rather than not doing it, but something happens to the stillness around 10 to 15 minutes in, that you will miss. That’s why 20+ is nearly universal.)

4. Eyes open or closed. — I keep mine open, unfocused and glancing down slightly. I learned early on that if my eyes are closed I’m more prone to daydream. Open helps keep me more alert. Others prefer eyes closed.


5. Settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

6. Resist no thought; retain no thought; react to no thought. When you realize you are engaged with your thoughts, including sensations and feelings, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. — This is what it’s all about. You may drift into not needing the word, just “resting in God.” Or you may stay in this attachment-surrender loop the whole time. I’m pretty good now at centering quickly, but there are days when my meditation is filled with thoughts. As Father Thomas Keating, the founder of Centering Prayer, says, ten thousand thoughts means “ten thousand opportunities to return to God.” Your aim is what The Cloud of Unknowing calls “naked intent direct to God” and Saint Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese Order, calls “to be totally open to God.” The goal is not emptiness. As Cynthia Bourgeault says, “striving for emptiness is a surefire way to guarantee that your meditation will be a constant stream of thoughts.”


7. At the end of the period, remain in silence for a couple of minutes.

Again, to read Phil’s entire post on Centering Prayer and meditation, click here.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

To subscribe to “Beyond Blue” click here.


  • Suzanne Staud

    Hi Therese,
    I’m reading Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady. It’s really wonderful. I took my best friend, Alice Sunday good dog, to the park and read this lovely, insightful book, while Alice played with a ball. I paused, and it feels good.

  • Megan

    I believe meditation is very restorative and crucial to recovering and dealing with mental illness. I have OCD, and bipolar so my mind races very quickly. I have found repetition of a phrase a certain number of times using beads to count extremely helpful. I choose the eightfold way of virtuous living from buddhist text. Hope this helps. Sending love and hope to all.

  • Barbara Bowman

    I think one problem a lot of us have that keeps us from meditating is the need for a quick fix. If we don’t “get” a reward for the time we spend, we think the time was wasted. To compare it to something else, how often do we start diets, or exercise, and give up when we don’t see almost immediate results.

  • Lorna

    I really value meditation for stilling the mind.
    I often hear people exclaim that they could never meditate because they have so much going on in their minds! Funny how it’s so often perceived as the outcome of the practice – a bit like what Barbara is saying – the quick fix. It’s not the having or not having of thoughts that makes the meditation – it’s the response and the intention as brilliantly described in step 6. And this takes practice. Some days are ‘quieter’ than others – that’s part of it too.
    Meditation helps me to recognize what’s ‘playing’ in the background of my life at any time. Invaluable.
    Thanks for a great article.

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.