brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on September 18th, 2020

Imagine, for a moment, what the Apostle John may have experienced at the end of the Last Supper when Jesus invited him to sit and rest his head against his chest.  

What went through John’s mind as he relaxed next to Jesus? Could he feel Jesus’ heart beat? Did he hear the whisper of Jesus’ breath flowing in and out of his lungs? Did John feel safe, loved, embraced?

Through the gift of our imaginations, we can experience the same emotions John felt. We can experience being embraced by God.

The Practice of Imaginative Prayer

In Meeting God through Your Imagination, Christine Warner reminds us it’s okay to use the gift of our creative minds to draw closer to God. St. Ignatius, she writes, invites us to engage our imaginations and senses to experience divine presence.

For Ignatius, meditation is not only about freeing our minds; it’s also about drawing us into an ever-deepening relationship with the Creator through images, metaphors, storytelling, and sensation.

God gifted us with imagination. Therefore, we can explore this divine gift to tap into an intimate experience of the Creator’s loving relationship with us.

Letting the Word Become Our Flesh

One way to enter into imaginative prayer is to take a Gospel story and place yourself in it. First, figure out who is present. Then, select one character and pretend you’re that person. What does it feel like to be there in the flesh, as a character in the story?

As you enter into this meditation practice, engage all five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Immerse yourself in the story. Where, exactly, are you? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? Is it hot, cold, windy? What emotions do you experience?

Continue to experience the scene, going deeper in your imagination.

This exercise places us in the divine narrative of the Gospel as it becomes our story.

Embraced—a Meditation Practice


If you’d like to experience the gift of imaginative prayer, click on the link below and listen to the two minute meditation.  Allow yourself to be embraced by God.


Embraced--A Meditation for You. Click here to experience this two minute mediation.


Savor the emotions you experience and take them with you into your day.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on September 11th, 2020

During his forty days of prayer and fasting as depicted in the blockbuster movie, Last Days in the Desert,  Jesus meets a young boy struggling to free himself from the inner voices that keep telling him he is bad. Eventually, the boy gathered the wisdom and courage to shout, “I’m not a bad son!” Those words freed him from the haunting inner voices of shame and doubt. As a result, the boy was able to fully give and receive love.


Many of my spiritual direction clients (myself included) often struggle with the same self-image problems the boy battled in the movie. That pit of self-doubt drowns us in the quicksand of shame stopping us from letting God love us. We get booby-trapped in the false belief we don’t deserve the gift of God’s unconditional love.


Why is it so hard to let God love us as we are, here and now, unconditionally? Who told us we were bad, so that now we place our hands over our ears and run from ourselves and those damning voices?


God did not teach us that falsehood. God is love, not some Brutus who’s ready to condemn us if we step out of line.


That is not who God is. That is not the One who created us in the image of Divine Love.


Like the boy in the movie, we too must stand tall and shout, “I am not a bad person!” We must proclaim those words. Rebuke the falsehoods of shame and doubt that stone our hearts. We must gather the courage and wisdom to open ourselves to the truth letting the river of compassion flow through us allowing us to proclaim, “I am good. I am loved. I am the image of Divine Love.”


As we rediscover who we are, we open our hearts to hear the Creator whisper the words, “I love you.” Then we can whisper back, “I love you too.”


To practice the art of letting God love you, click on the podcast/meditation link below and receive the gift of unconditional love from our Creator.  

 three minute love you prayer meditation

---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

by brian j plachta on September 2nd, 2020

When the apostles went to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray, they observed how Jesus went into solitude each day to be alone with his Father (Luke 11: 1-13).


Jesus gained wisdom, guidance, and affirmation from his Father, which flowed naturally into his daily life. Contemplation gave him God’s Wisdom and the strength to carry out his life’s purpose. Through this daily practice he found inner peace and guidance.


Jesus modeled for us the human need to find balance between contemplation and action. If we don’t take time each day to sit in the Quiet with God—to listen and connect our hearts with the Holy Spirit—we risk becoming the noisy gongs scripture warns against.


When we do follow Jesus’ pattern (and the other Saints and wise men and women who did so) and spend time each day alone with God, we slowly begin to notice changes in our lives. Our relationship with God deepens. It becomes personal, experiential, and real. We learn discernment—our souls discover  how to listen to the silent voice of God, who communicates with us personally through the whisper of the Holy Spirit.


The Western world threw Contemplation out with the Enlightenment. Thomas Merton and Father Thomas Keating taught that it’s the missing piece in our culture’s spiritual formation.
However, as we continue to yearn for that ever-deepening connection with God in our noisy world, the Holy Spirit invites us to return to the ancient tradition of contemplation. Through this daily experience, we discover the inner peace and guidance we need to live with joy and love.


It’s all about relationship


For any relationship to grow, we must spend time nurturing it. Quality time when we talk—and when we listen. Our relationship with God is no different. Maybe we know how to talk to God. But how do we listen?


There are no right or wrong ways to practice meditation/contemplation.

 It’s simply creating quiet space and solitude for God in our daily lives so our relationship with the Creator grows and we learn to understand how the Spirit is moving in our lives and how we’re responding to that movement.


Over the next several weeks, I’d like to offer you a smorgasbord of time-tested prayer practices so you can taste each one and choose which is most life-giving for you.  There will be a short introduction to the practice and then a YouTube Podcast you can click on to experience it.


Find Your Center


This week, let’s focus on Centering Prayer. With this practice, you’re invited to choose a word or short phrase as a mantra to center yourself the way an anchor moors a boat in wavy water. When your mind drifts, which it will often do, simply come back to the word or phrase to rediscover the stillpoint within you.


Centering Prayer is one way to tame constant mind chatter so we can enjoy inner peace and quiet. It’s a gentle discipline that allows us to calm our minds and open our hearts so we can listen for the Creator’s wisdom and guidance. Centering Prayer invites us to simply rest in God.


The practice has become increasingly popular since the 1970s when Father Thomas Keating and others re-introduced it into the United States through the international organization Contemplative Outreach. 

Centering Prayer’s roots dig back to the third century when it was practiced widely by desert fathers and mothers—those men and women who left the noise and chaos of the city to live in caves so they could seek wisdom and solitude.  St. Benedict also incorporated Centering Prayer as a foundational daily practice for his monks as they sought to create a balanced rhythm of life.


May you find your Center—the Stillpoint within—as you practice Centering Prayer.


Click on the YouTube link below and InJoy!

Centering Prayer Meditation Podcast


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net




by brian j plachta on August 28th, 2020

In our Christian tradition and perhaps in other faith traditions, we’ve lost sight of the “practices” that allow us to experience the presence of God in mind, body, and spirit. Just like we go for walks to exercise our bodies, stretch our muscles or work-out to help maintain physical health, so too our spiritual muscles need practice-based exercises to allow us to connect with the presence of God, to stretch us so we can experience mind, body, and spirit the Divine Light and Love that lives within and through us.

Aaron Niequist in The Eternal Current—How a  Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning says his faith stopped working when he got stuck into trying to think his way into wholeness. His intellect alone wasn’t enough to deepen his relationship with God and live from his authentic self. To get unstuck, he discovered we’re invited to move beyond spiritual observation and information into divine participation through practices that let us experience the Presence of God.

The Finding Flow book I’m writing is all about what I call “doable spiritual practices”—real-life exercises you can do to reclaim inner peace, balance, and wholeness because that’s what God wants for us—the Creator wants us to be happy, to participate in a life filled with love and guided by wisdom.

This week, I’ve prepared a twelve minute podcast you can listen to and download as a way of practicing the presence of God.

Inspired by the writings of Luke Healy of the Integral Christian Network, I prepared the podcast hoping you’ll click on the link below, sit back, and listen as you allow yourself to practice the Presence of God.  InJoy!


Click Here to Listen to Podcast


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net







by brian j plachta on August 18th, 2020

When chaos
grips my heart
with ungodly fear

When life
overwhelms me
with waves of despair

I ask a simple question
to coax anxiety
off its ledge

“Am
   I
safe?”


Do I have enough food to eat?
a shelter to rest in?
people who love me
and whom I love?

My answer is yes
I am
safe

Despite political upheaval
nature’s storms
and a pandemic crisis

I
am
safe
 
I have food
shelter
and loved ones

Not everyone
can answer
that question yes

Not everyone has food
Some sleep in doorways
Or under bridges


Some have lost
all those
who love them

Are
they
safe?

Many
are
not

This reality
changes
the question

Instead of
Am I safe?
I vow to ask


Can I exchange
my fear
for gratitude?

Can I help
Someone else find
Their daily bread?


—-brian j plachta



by brian j plachta on August 11th, 2020


When you listen
the soft coo
of the mourning dove
reveals the beauty of life

Drops of dew
on blades of grass
sparkle light
into your soul

Water lapping
on the lake
slows your pace
restores your rhythm

When you listen
dawn reveals
the answers
to your problems

The crow’s caw
speaks wisdom
and you know
what you need to do

When you listen
silence becomes your friend
you no longer need
to run from yourself

you understand
life’s wisdom
can only be learned
in the silence

When you listen
the Creator
whispers
you are good

In the silence
your soul is fed
with endless gifts
of love

When you listen
you realize  
something deep
and mysterious

something sacred
is taking place in your life
right here
right now

and the more attentive
you become
the more you
see and understand it

When you listen
your heart
and soul
lead the way

Your feet catch up
to the One Life
you’ve only imagined
could be yours




—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net










by brian j plachta on August 8th, 2020


What if you were peter
in the boat
with the others

tossed and battered
wind howling
waters raging

it’s not just this storm
you know
it’s every turmoil  
you’ve endured

life has beaten
disappointed

you hunker down
into the hull of a wooden boat
that crashes upon the sea
as life’s waves slap hope out of you

in desperation
you stand
gaze upon the waters
wondering if
there’s a break in the storm

then you see the One
the outstretched hand
the loving eyes fixed upon yours

you hear the Voice
calling your name

what if you were peter
in that moment
in that boat
with that choice?

the one we all must make

do I stay in the pit of fear and despair
or take a risk the Divine Hand
that stretches toward me is not a ghost
not a figment of my imagination?

it is real

the Creator reaches
through the sea of my life
to touch and heal

to help me walk on water

would you take the Hand?
would you get out of the boat?
would you keep your eyes fixed
on the One who loves you?

would you
push past fear
claim your courage
and let your heart cry out, “save me”?

we are all peter
we all have the same choice

do we sink?

or

do we
grasp the
saving Hand
entrust our lives
to the Divine
to the One
who seeks to embrace
and guide us?

what if you were peter?

would you get out of the boat?


—-brian j plachta
brianplachta.net









by brian j plachta on July 28th, 2020


Remember Tigger?  That lively, hyperactive tiger—who’s bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, and pouncy?

An article in The Guardian  magazine suggests Tigger suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It manifests itself in his restlessness and impulsiveness.

I often feel like Tigger. I bounce from one thought to another, leap from one project to the next. My inner bouncing sometimes scares me. Maybe I’ve got “Tigger-syndrome”—a dose of ADHD.

At a Wisdom School retreat, I attended several years ago, the leader taught us a simple practice to ground ourselves. She invited us to go outside and rake leaves in a small group. When someone in the group called out, “Find your feet,” we stopped raking, planted our feet on the ground, and drew our attention to the connection we felt with the earth beneath us. We then spoke aloud a word or phrase describing what we were experiencing.

“Joy,” someone called out. “Tingling,” another said. “Grateful.” “Grounded.” “Rooted.” “Peaceful.”  The words and expressions continued for a few moments. Then we’d go back to raking until someone again called out, “Find your feet.”

This practice slowed me and relaxed my body. It pulled me back into the present moment so I could experience it as gift. I connected with my spirit.

Since attending the retreat, I’ve tried to integrate the “find-your-feet” practice into daily life—and added a new twist to it.

When I notice I’m scattered, bouncing like Tigger, or defaulting into stinking-thinking, I stop, place my feet on the ground or floor for a moment, feel the sensations in my body, and name one or two things for which I’m grateful.

Standing with feet flat on the ground, I find myself grateful for my body. Grateful for God’s love and acceptance of me as I am. Grateful for my family and friends. Grateful for health, this moment, this breath. Grateful for the Spirit God has placed within my heart.

The find-your-feet practice stops my inner bouncing. It grounds me in my heart and pulls me out of the Tigger Syndrome. It reconnects me with the stability of the earth and the gift of the present moment.

Brother David Steindl-Rast in Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, writes that the practice of gratitude is a pathway to inner peace. He says, “What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this given life in all its fullness.”

I still love Tigger and the Tigger in me. But by stopping and naming something I’m grateful for, I reconnect with something deeper. I experience peace and balance. I rediscover my inner self hidden in God.

As I go back to the day’s tasks, I do so with a positive spirit, a renewed heart, a pure energy. And when I get bouncy, trouncy, and flouncy again, I stop, find my feet, and name something for which I’m grateful.  


Find your feet. Ground yourself in gratitude.

It’s a fun remedy for the Tigger Syndrome.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net





by brian j plachta on July 22nd, 2020


I often hear two voices—
The voice in my head
And the voice in my heart.  

The voice in my head
fills me with shame and doubt.
Tells me I’m flawed.
I don’t measure up.
It reminds me of
all the times I’ve failed.
“You’ll never win,” it scoffs.

The voice in my heart
tells me something different.
I’m God’s Beloved.
I’m perfectly human.
I’m good enough.
I’m love and loved.

The voice in my head is loud and brash.
I can’t trust it to tell me the truth.

The voice in my heart is patient and kind.
It listens first and whispers later.

To which voice do I listen?

I desire to follow
the voice of my heart
but the voice in my head
is relentless,
an untamed beast
that hounds me.


I stop,
quiet myself,
placing hands to chest


In the stillness
In the bridal chamber of my heart
I hear the Voice of Truth whisper,
“Do not be afraid.
I am with you.
You’re okay.
You can do this.”


A chorus of birds
sing Psalms
outside my den window
together
we praise the Voice of Truth.




—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on July 16th, 2020

The fiery red globe of light sank toward the horizon as the heavens joined the earth. Threads of angelic blue feathered the sky, mingling with white rolling clouds, as buckets of orange, then red, then dark blue, splashed their colors across the skyline until all that was left of the sunset was that mysterious green flash only wise sailors say they can see.

I watched this summer sunset unfold over Lake Michigan one dusk. It had wisdom to teach me as I experienced it first with an open heart, and then with a clinging mind.

Unfiltered by thought, my heart pondered. This is it. This beauty unfolding is in God. Everything is in God. I tasted what was there and now without having to dissect it.

My heart overflowed with awe. I breathed in the joy of being part of nature—a participant with the water, the sun, the sky, and God in a pure exchange. The “oneness” of the moment caressed my lungs. The golden hues of daylight turning to twilight bathed my skin.

But then my mind demanded to step in. It wanted to evaluate the sunset. Name it. Grasp it. Cling to it like there was something beyond, something I had to figure out or capture. I grabbed my phone and clicked a bunch of photos.

While my wife continued to stare at the setting sun, I jammed my I-phone at her face. “Isn’t that a great sunset? Look at this cool picture I took of it.”

Poof! The “in-the-moment” experience of being One with nature’s glory vanished as my talking head pushed aside my silent heart. In the subtle shift from heart to head, our encounter with inner beauty disappeared.

Jon Kabat-Zinn in, Wherever You Go There You Are, says we need to remind ourselves occasionally, "This is it." This present moment is the gift we’ve been given, and there’s nothing we need “do” with it, except receive it.


Bernadette Roberts, in The Experience of No-Self, echoes Zinn’s wisdom. She details her life-long spiritual journey of learning how to let go of the “ego-self” that grasps and clings with the intellectual mind, and discovering the “no-self” that simply experiences life in the heart-felt present moment.

Roberts writes, “I felt bad about the fact that man lives his whole life in the false expectation that some ultimate reality lies hidden behind, beneath, or beyond what is. And I remembered my own life of searching and looking and now saw what a complete waste it had been. All the experiences of my life had been nothing more than a head trip, a great psychological hoax, a pointless circular affair….”

The Creator’s grace invites us to taste each moment as a spoonful of Divinity. When we move from the head into the heart we awake to where we are. We return to what Roberts calls the “non-reflective mind.” When we come to the realization—the final acceptance—that everything is in God, Roberts says, we realize what we see is all we get. This is it. It’s enough, more than enough. There’s nothing underneath, nothing to look beyond, and nothing to look around for.

As I watched the sun continue its slow descent, I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and shifted my focus back to my silent heart.

“This is it,” I whispered to soothe my mind. The beauty returned. It was in me, in the sky, and all around me.

I stopped trying to figure it out—whatever “it” was or is. It didn’t matter. In that moment, I was in the Garden of Eden savoring the fruit of God’s endless love unfolding across a lavish summer sky.

The sunset was my teacher that night showing me how to savor beauty and joy; teaching me how to live from an open heart instead of from a clinging mind.

I didn’t see the green flash as the sun closed its eyes. I did however, feel God smiling in my heart as together we tasted those eternal moments.

As a spiritual practice this week, remind yourself occasionally, This is it.

Notice how your silent heart knows what to do.



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net





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