brian j plachta
Welcome Friends!
writer, spiritual mentor, speaker
by deepening your inner growth, integrating balance & discovering wholeness in your daily life.
to live the life you've imagined
I'm a passionate writer, energetic speaker, & spiritual mentor
---click here to get weekly email encouragements---
who wants to encourage you
by brian j plachta on April 7th, 2020


Holy Week 2020 - Under COVID-19 Conditions

“We rise with Christ each time we awaken to the presence of God. Every time we connect with our inner spirit—when we open our hearts and notice God’s amazing grace—we sense a deeper knowing. We embrace love flowing from the Spirit. We unite with Christ’s divine rising.”

—brian j plachta
_______________________________________________


Dear Friends,

Here’s a mid-Holy Week guest blog inspired by the newsletter I recently received from Don, my spiritual director, with some of my tweaks. May it inspire, you as it did me, to find new and creative ways to celebrate “being the living church.”  We Rise!


__________________________________________


For most Christians, this is the most special week of the year.


I know it is mine! It is our orientation point of all we believe and all we are. It is not simply a historical event. It is not about remembering what Jesus did. It is about what Jesus continues to be in us and through us today.


We are members of his Body, the Body of Christ. We are one with his coming to this earth in human flesh (his Incarnation), Jesus’ life, teaching, healing, suffering, death, rest in the grave, resurrection, ascension and Jesus’  asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit into his Body on earth called the Church. And in this season we—Jesus’ Body—celebrate those events by which Jesus has lovingly united us to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, to himself for eternity. This week we are in the thick of celebrating God’s love for us.


In a normal year, we might be going to church at least four times to celebrate all this:

•Palm Sunday, to celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into the City of David, and “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (to mix a metaphor) in the eyes of the powerful people.


•Holy, or Maundy, Thursday, to celebrate so many things dear to us Christians. Jesus’ celebrating his Passover with his disciples, his promises, his great explanation of love in the washing of his disciples’ feet, his great gift and mandate to celebrate the bread and cup until he will come again (Eucharist), and finally his night in “agony,” discerning the will of his Father in heaven even as his humanness seeks another answer, the arrest in the garden, Jesus’ incarceration, and early morning trials.


•Good Friday, to be present to Jesus’ continued trials, beatings and eventually the horrific carrying the cross to Golgotha, Jesus hanging on a cross, dying and being lovingly buried.


•Easter Sunday and its Vigil, to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and our sharing in that New Life.


While celebrating Holy Week “at Church” is wonderful,
we can celebrate these events
without having to be at a Church.
And this year we must,
Why?
Because it is too important for us to skip.
Celebrating Holy Week and Easter
 are “essential activities”
for all Christians
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health
in quarantine or not,
in this life and in the next.


The Church is not the building we go to for worship. The Church is the people, the Christian community, which gathers. This year the Church cannot gather at the ecclesia (“Church” - literally a ‘meeting place’ in Greek, our New Testament Biblical ancestral language).

So, the question becomes where do we gather this year, and how do we do it?

The obvious answer is: we celebrate it where two or three are gathered. Where is that? At your house! That’s right.

This year the Church will gather at your house!


What about the “What are we supposed to do?” For that, we are well equipped in the electronic era. Here are ideas, hardware and software.


•Sites on computers and on TV: from your parish, your church, or one of a thousand other wonderful places being offered “live-stream” or recorded. Just “google/search” “Holy Week Celebrations” for your area and you will find something that will guide you. Go to your church’s website, and you will find lots of suggestions.  


•Here’s a link to the Holy Week services being offered on line and/or on television through the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI:  https://grdiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/holy-week-2020-livestream-schedule.pdf

Whether you have your own service, or “watch together” something on line or TV, make it “hands on.”


If in your own home, be creative musically. Any inspiration music can be found on YouTube. Take advantage of that. Here’s some ideas for each day of Holy Week:


•On Maundy, or Holy, Thursday, actually take turns washing each other’s feet. What a moving experience that will be. We all had our feet washed for years before we could do it ourselves. Many of us have had to wash our elderly parents’ feet. Perhaps you have needed recently to wash your feet. Jesus said, “As I have done this to you, so must you do for one another.” He wasn’t kidding!


•On Good Friday, be creative. Read the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (18;1 - 19:42) which has the story broken up into the different speakers (e.g. Narrator, Jesus, Soldiers, Peter, Pilate, etc. 

Here’s a link to the text you can use: http://resources.ipsissima-verba.org/documents/good-friday-passion.pdf  

Make copies on your home printer and pass them around to the people in the story. Kids will love it. If they want to “ham it up” a little by costumes and crowns of thorns and a cross, great!

•Here is a link to the Irish Dominicans singing the Passion Story you can watch or sing along with: https://youtu.be/s3Btb-8HLQM.


•Another part of the service at home would be to find the biggest cross in your house, or even have some kids with mom or dad during Holy Week make a special big cross to use for this service. Pass the cross if it is small, or approach the cross; then let each person reverence it in a personal way. (Maybe with Covid-19 running around, it would not be a good idea to kiss it this year, eh?) If several rooms in the house have a cross or crucifix in it, gather them together for the service and then together go around and reverence them with a moment of silence.


•Conclude with a closing prayer from a worship book and perhaps a song from YouTube.



•On Holy Saturday, we observe the “Great Silence”  as a day of respecting Jesus’ lying in the tomb.  

Here’s a short YouTube that invites us to share in this Great Silence: https://youtu.be/gMm7dfaJnaQ



Easter Sunday, is full of possibilities. You can celebrate it either at dark on Saturday night or on Sunday.

Here’s two options:

Watch on line services: Watch the on-line services on your favorite worship site. You can also google “Easter Sunday services near me” and get a list of all kinds of various services on-line.

 
Create your own home service. Here’s a simple format you could use to create your own Easter Celebration:


Opening Prayer or Song

•Reading 1

•Reading 2 (optional)

•Gospel Reading (Here is a link to the readings for Easter Sunday: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041220.cfm

•Reflection: one person shares insights or reads a reflection about the joy of resurrection.

•Our Father- recite the Our Father together.

Blessing of the Bread (have each family place bread or crackers in front them; then one family member says a short prayer to bless the bread such as:  

“God of Life, You are one bread, and we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of this bread.

“Lord, we thank you for uniting us as One, for you are the Bread of Life, and we share in your Life through our mind, body, and spirit. Let this bread nourish us with your wisdom and infinite love.”

Break, share and Eat the Bread. (those gathered each eat a piece of the bread).

•Closing Prayer or Song.


If you are a family with kids, you have been doing all kinds of creative things with the kids since school closed in your area due to the virus. So, you know how to do this. Apply what you have been doing with other things with the wonderful world of Holy Week. Just, as my Dad would say, “Make it fun.”

For you and your kids, it may be the Holy Week and Easter you’ll never forget.

We Rise! Easter Blessings.

_____________________




by brian j plachta on April 5th, 2020

Unleash the Power of Spiritual Reading...


“Who’s your wisdom teacher?” Sister Nancy asked those of us studying to become spiritual directors. “Who do you look up to? Whose life would you like to model? Name them, and then read their books and memoirs so you can learn from their writings.”


Nancy taught us the importance of spiritual reading. She invited us to fill our lives with the rich treasures of new understandings and ideas found in the books of spiritual masters—those people one step ahead of us on life’s pathway.


I chose the writer Richard Hauser, a Jesuit priest, as my wisdom teacher. His book, Moving in the Spirit, changed my understanding of God. Hauser states there are two models for our relationship with the Creator. One’s the correct one, the other—flat out wrong.


Err! Wrong!


Hauser calls the first model the Western model. It suggests when we do good, God rewards us. But when we mess up, the Creator removes his grace and allows us to suffer.


This model is wrong Hauser states. It makes God out to be a puppet-god whose strings we pull by our good actions. The problem with this perspective is that even when we live good lives, bad things still happen. It also suggests God’s the source of the bad things that occur—like the coronavirus. 


But the God-of-love is not a sorcerer. Instead, when trouble happens, God showers even more love and grace upon us to help us maneuver through life’s difficulties.


The Spirit is a Moving!


The second model is the scriptural one, according to Hauser. This model says God is always moving in our lives, his Divine love drawing us closer toward wholeness, inner peace, and balance. Our job is to listen and determine where and how God is guiding us, and then respond by following the Spirit’s lead.


The scriptural model reminds us we are God’s Beloved. We’re unconditionally loved by our Creator, and we’ve been gifted with discernment—the Spirit within us that invites us to listen and follow God’s loving nudges.


I like to think of this as the “Where’s Waldo?” life-lens because it invites us to step back and look at the pages of our lives to celebrate those ah-ha-moments when we recognize God’s loving nudges.


Reading Hauser’s books unlocked a key to one of life’s mysteries. I realized my perspective about God was all wrong. Because of Hauser’s wisdom, I stopped trying to be the good little altar boy—the adult-kid always trying to please my daddy—and instead set aside daily quiet time to stop and listen for Divine directions.


This is How We Grow


Writer Reena Mathur says spiritual reading is a vital part of human growth. It deepens our knowledge and makes us a better person.


 If you’ve ever met someone full of life, positivity, and happiness, she says, it’s a good bet that person has a habit of reading. Reading a good book has the power to lift your mood and bring the beauty of a smile to your face.

Mathur notes these benefits from spiritual reading:

• Lowered stress levels. Reading spiritual books improves your mental and physical health. Studies have proven that people who read are more likely to stay calm in stressful situations.


• Enhanced power, concentration, and focus. Reading enhances your focus and concentration levels. The words within spiritual books offer constructive ways to empower you.


• New perspectives. Inspirational books expand your thinking and sharpen your imagination. They shower divine light and wisdom upon you.


• Deeper truths. The Bible and other inspirational books teach us deeper truths about life. They define the value and importance of our human souls. They help us understand ourselves, the world, and all creation. 

The Saints Agree

St. Ignatius says spiritual reading allows us to savor the wise words that resonate in us through our heart’s imagination. When we read, God speaks to us, says St. Jerome. St. Alphonsus tells us inspirational reading gives us access to the wisdom of spiritual masters.


Gimme Thirty!


My buddy Ben told me he reads for at least thirty minutes each day. He goes to bed a little earlier each night so he can wrap himself in blankets and devour the teachings from inspirational books. 


I’ve followed Ben’s advice. It’s life-giving.


When I read a spiritual book, my mind has something good to chew on during the day. Rather than grumbling and focusing on what’s wrong with myself and the world, I feed my soul the wisdom I’ve discerned through inspirational books. I ponder their words, allowing them to trickle into my thinking and actions.


When I fall back into negative thinking, it usually means I’ve stopped reading for a few days. It’s as if my monkey mind chatters, “Feed me an inspirational banana!” So, I listen to that nudge and pick up the daily practice of reading again.


Try It. You Might Like It.


This week—especially during these times of sheltering—turn off the distractions, and follow Sister Nancy’s and Ben’s advice.


Go to an on-line library or bookstore and ask God to lead you to a spiritual book. Let the book’s author become your wisdom teacher. Then, like Ben, embrace the practice of reading for thirty minutes each day.


Notice how spiritual reading unlocks life’s mysteries for you and helps you find the Divine flow of inner peace, balance, and wholeness.

Grab a book and unleash the power of spiritual reading.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net




by brian j plachta on March 28th, 2020

We’re in an uncertain space as we move through this pandemic crisis. Work routines have changed. Some of us have no work. Schools are closed. Young children are home. The daily pace has slowed.  

This global halt to life as we’ve known it has created time to take walks, read, and notice little things like family, sunshine, and fresh air. We now have more pockets of solitude.

It’s as if someone waved a wand and blanketed the world with a deep quiet.

Gerald May, a psychiatrist and theologian, calls this quiet the “power of slowing.”

In his book, The Wisdom of Wilderness, May says he longed for a direct encounter with Divine Presence. He wanted to experience “that Something that is in you but not yet completely you— something dynamic, surprising, and very, very wise.”

May said he was tired of the indirect, intellectual experience of God—a god who was something or someone “out there.” It left him feeling separated from himself and the Divine. May wanted to feel Presence rising from his deepest parts—to experience it inside his very muscles, to feel the gentle hand of the Creator taking his arms and legs and stilling them. And most of all, he wanted to hear the Voice of Wisdom speak within him.

In 2005, May was diagnosed with incurable cancer. It was then he realized he had to choose. He could get angry at God and the Universe, blaming them for his illness, or he could let this unexpected event invite him into the wilderness of his inner life. He chose the latter.

After his diagnosis, May spent time in the quiet each day. On weekends, he went alone to the mountains. He sat in contemplation. Listening. Waiting. And after a time of faithfully showing up for daily solitude, May experienced the Presence for which he longed. He heard the Voice of Wisdom within him.

He described it as a “sweet, irresistible voice speaking in my belly. ‘Be still now,’ it whispered. It’s not a real voice, not actual hearing, but the message was clear,” May wrote. “No rush, no need to do anything, just be.”

This Presence, through the power of quiet, guided May through his illness and led him courageously to the Other Side.

I wonder if the pandemic we are facing offers us the same choice May had to make. We can shake our fists at the people or gods we believe caused it, or we can let it invite us into the Power of Slowing, the Power of Quiet.


Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and follow it.”  

Perhaps this time of slowing is an invitation to enter into daily quiet so we can hear the Voice to which Jesus refers. Maybe the Holy Spirit is up to something because the Spirit uses everything, even suffering, to bring about good.

Many people believe we’re in a personal and universal teachable moment. I believe we’re being invited to come to the quiet so we can experience Divine Presence.

For years, I’ve tried to follow Gerald May’s example. After rising each morning, I go to my den, light a candle, sip morning coffee, and pour my heart out to the Creator.  

The other morning in my time of solitude, I told God, “I am afraid.” My daughter who works in a California nursing home as a dietician may have caught the coronavirus. As I wept, I felt the Father hold me, touch my skin, and comfort my heart. I asked him to help us—all of us—because we are all suffering. Then, I felt a stillness rise up in my belly. That familiar voice that has no sound, whispered in my heart, “I am with you. All shall be well.” Later that week, my daughter’s test came back negative.

I can’t understand intellectually how or what this Divine Presence is. I only know I feel it in my body and in my emotions as I sit in the quiet and experience my heartbeat and breath. I can’t see it—whatever “It” is. I just know it’s real.

In this global time of slowing, God is showing us the Power of Quiet. He is using this time to lead us into our wilderness, inviting us to create space for the Presence we need so deeply.

If you have a current quiet time, savor it. You have heard the nudge from the Power of Slowing and have allowed it to draw you deeper into the heart of the One who loves and speaks to you.

If the practice of daily solitude is new to you, consider setting aside 20-30 minutes each day as you let the Power of Slowing lead you into the quiet. Then sit still and listen with your heart. See how this daily experience holds you. Take your worries and cares, your joys, and your sorrows to the Divine, and find peace there. Try it for 10 days and let it become your oasis, your time of comfort, as you care for your soul and discover the Power of Quiet.

Before his death, May wrote these words. I pray they lead us Home.

“I would bet that if you are willing, and if you listen very gently and carefully, you will sense that this mysterious Wisdom is ready to lead you, guide you to where you need to be. It is your wilderness calling.”


—-brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



______________________________________

PS—Last week I invited readers to share how they experience the gift of solitude. Here are some of their responses. InJoy!!!

“To me, Solitude means a quiet time I am mentally free from unwanted distractions.  It is a quiet time that that I can focus on talking to God.  I can focus on what He has done in my life and ask Him what His Will is for me.

“To incorporate solitude in my life, two things come to mind.  

“First, I love to fish. Being in the boat by myself allows me to witness the beauty of God's creation. I see His work everywhere on the water, in the sky, and on the shore.  This usually turns into a time of thanksgiving for all of the things He has given mankind.  

“Second, when I take my dog for a walk early in the morning, it provides lots of quiet time so I can talk to God. I can just observe and reflect on what God has created.  It's a really good time to commune with God.
 
“What I usually experience in these times is a quieting of that squirrel cage in my head revved up from the news of the previous day and the list of things I need to do. It gives me a chance to get myself back in focus.”

—Miles


“Thanks for starting this conversation. This was good to re-center myself on this daily practice, and I'm looking forward to hearing what others have to share!

“What does “solitude” mean?

“To me, solitude means to withdraw, to have my own special time with God. It is a time for me to give God my full attention and for God to give me his full attention, with no one else around, for me to rest in his unique delight in me, instead of driving forward, competing and comparing to get that feeling of being special and important.

“How do I incorporate solitude into my daily life?

“Having time in the morning is a special time for me, before the rest of my family gets up. But I've also been seeking to practice stepping away throughout the day for even 1-2 minutes to "retreat" and allow the Spirit to re-center me.  

“What do I experience during that quiet, sacred space?

“Sometimes I get that emotional/mental feeling of being special to God, experiencing that sense of "He really does love me!" or "Wow, he really is that beautiful." But most of the time I experience a sense of contentment and openness to experience whatever God has for me in this moment, and to be re-centered on what is most important in life - loving God and loving others.”

—Jordan


“Nowadays, I start my morning prayers right in bed. I find peace in the solitude of thanking God for giving me another day. Generally, I spend about 15 minutes.  Then, I go to the living room, where I pull a card out from a box filled with Bible verses and thoughts for the day.  

“I spend about an hour. It varies because as the words speak to me, I pause to contemplate what has touched me, and try to listen to what God is telling me.”

—Tina


“What is Solitude?

“Undisturbed/ hidden away private Holy place for my Quiet time with God. This can be in my home or it can be in the forest or a church. God chooses and I comply.

 “How do I incorporate Solitude into my daily life?

“I have tried various times of the day to accomplish this—morning is my best time. I am always listening to hear the Voice of my God, but when in Solitude, it is much easier (although if God wants to be heard, He will make his Voice as loud as Thunder).

“I am open most readily during this time to accept God’s presence and be aware of His guidance and blessings. This includes such times as when God calls me to only, Rest and Relax in Him.

“What do I experience during this time of quiet, sacred time of Solitude?

 “Openness/ Trust/ Fortitude/ Finding myself humbled to accept God’s forgiveness and for me to forgive myself each day, for the weakness of my yesterday.

“I also obtain the fruitful messages that God wants me to claim as my own! I obtain Excitement over hearing his Voice, in the audible sense. I could never tire of this amazing gift He chose for me. He fills me to overflowing on some days. That is when I experience this as I feel the tears washing down over my cheeks…but oh, so thankful!”
 
—Sue


“For the past ten years I have been living in the solitude of my rectory apartment. I learned the spiritual value of solitude from my ten years (1958-1968) as a Benedictine monk in a monastery in NW Arkansas, Subiaco Abbey. You probably know the etymology of the word "monk" is from the Greek, meaning "alone" or "solitary". I have experienced being "alone" differs greatly from "being lonely." I have grown to treasure solitude, as did one of my many mentors, Thomas Merton, as he so eloquently wrote it from his hermitage at Gethsemane.

“I connect "silence" with solitude. I know it is implied....but one can be solitary and not be silent.

—Joachim

“To me solitude is being alone with God.  I have a very comfortable space in the lower level of our house.

 “I start of each day by going to my special place and doing some deep breathing to connect and meditate. I use my Apple Watch and I try to get my heart rate down to the mid 50’s.  To do this, I have to relax and not think about anything.  I can’t get there every day, but sometimes I do.

“After I do this, I meditate for 15 to 20 minutes.  I talk to God. I listen. Sometimes I am given a word or a phrase—sometimes nothing.  I often ask him—what is the work you want me to do know?

“When I finish, I exercise. We have a lot of exercise equipment in the lower level of our house.  To do this, I have to get up early so I can go to class, go do volunteer work or go about my day with whatever we have planned.  When I exercise, I often listen to—Pray as you go.  I read the scripture for the day before I start and then do part of my exercises.

 “I also try to read in the evening.  Sometimes I also read in the morning—it depends on what is going on.

“I work on this.  I am not perfect but I try.”

—Mike


“My thoughts on solitude include not so much a specific time and place but more the action or process.

“For me, there is a daily structured aspect, early morning after getting up and starting a cup of coffee, sitting at my desk in the kitchen or comfy upholstered antique rocker in my small bedroom, but it also includes the brief time in bed before I actually get up in the morning. It includes my night-time in bed just before falling asleep. Actually, sometimes it’s in the shower! Alone, thinking of my day. The warm water is a daily blessing! The conversation begins!

“I guess the commonality and my benefit is "Me and God" with no distractions. It’s an opportunity to speak with God with my daily pleas, and importantly, listen for His response. These times allow for conversation without distraction.

“What I have experienced is comfort, knowing it is our time. I receive a connectedness I need, not only in these challenging times, but also every day on my spiritual journey.”

—Tony

Here are some other responses with links to ways people incorporate solitude into their day:


Pray as You Go. Each morning during my meditation time, I pull up Pray as You Go online, which offer the day’s scripture. After listening to it, I sit quietly for 15 minutes and let the words and music speak to me. Here is the website:

 https://pray-as-you-go.org



—Steve

Evening Walks.  I talk with God during my morning shower and all day long. But, my favorite time is in the evening when I go for a 20-30-minute walk in our neighborhood. As I walk, I listen and hear God talk to me.  Here’s a short video that introduced me to prayer walking. During this time of health concerns, I walk alone to avoid spreading the virus. Prayer Walking. Maybe soon we can walk together again.

 https://youtu.be/1URoA_DUBEw



—Denise

Music.  I listen to some gentle music during my devotion time, and then sit quietly and ponder the words after the song finishes. My favorite meditation song is “Come to the Quiet” by John Michael Talbot.

Here is a link to it on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/O2R-Vpo26ys

—Jill


Art/Writing.  I spend a half hour in quiet meditation. Toward the end of that time, I often have a piece of art or a piece of writing that stirs in me. It’s as if the Creator places them on my heart. When it feels right, I get up and let the art or writing flow onto the paper through me. This Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert inspires me to greet the “muse” who shows up during my meditation time.

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_your_elusive_creative_genius


—Ralph

Guided Meditations.  I like to listen to a guided meditation to focus and center me. I like the meditations on your YouTube Page: Guided Meditations.

https://youtu.be/1ryKuusnzws

—Sally

The Rosary.  I love to pray the Rosary each day. It allows me to reflect on the life of Christ. Here’s a video that gave me some background.

https://youtu.be/_lO77WmaI4k

—Tom

Body Prayer.  I love the Julian of Norwich body prayer. I also do the same body prayer at the end of my day to offer the day back to God.  Here’s the link:

https://youtu.be/_lKdXykzTXk

—Elizabeth

Centering Prayer.  I have used Centering Prayer, as introduced by Father Thomas Keating, for my daily meditation practice.  It has changed my life. Here is a link to Father Keating’s introduction to Centering Prayer:

https://youtu.be/3IKpFHfNdnE
—Lee


———————————————————————————————--
Next week:  Spiritual Reading

Next week our Simple Wisdom reflection will focus on the practice of spiritual reading.

Shoot me an email at brian@brianplachta.net and let me know:

  • What is the spiritual book that most inspired you?  

  • What did you learn from it?

With your permission, I’ll share your answers in next week’s reflection.

Thank you for Finding Flow with me. It’s life-giving.



by brian j plachta on March 24th, 2020

We’re all suffering right now. The waves of fear and courage seem to ebb and flow like ocean tides. There’s a “both—and” to this current global experience we’re all part of.

Rather than focusing on the fear and suffering that hits me like a baseball bat, I got the God-nudge this morning in my Quiet Time to reflect on these words from Henri Nouwen:

“Learn the discipline of being surprised not by suffering but by joy. As we grow old . . . there is suffering ahead of us, immense suffering, a suffering that will continue to tempt us to think that we have chosen the wrong road. . . . But don’t be surprised by pain. Be surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert, and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.”

So, the question I invite you to ponder with me is this: “Where do you find Joy today?”

Here’s my short list of how I was surprised by joy today:

•Having a safe place to sit in the quiet with God and hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit remind me, “I am with you.”

•Taking my dog Riley for a walk and hearing the Robins sing morning praises to the Creator.

•Having life slow down so I have more time to be Present to my wife and children.

•Listening to Only in God from Michael Talbot on You Tube: (here’s the link: Only in God You Tube Video) 

•Getting an instant message from my daughter with this YouTube Video It’s Going to Get Better attached (here’s the link: https://youtu.be/1nrcZQliOGI)

How about you? Where do you find joy today?

Email me back with your thoughts at brian@brianplachta.net or post them on the Simple Wisdom Facebook page by clicking on this link:  Simple Wisdom Facebook Page.

We’re all in this together. Let’s encourage each other to look up, not down, and see the joy that’s here even while suffering.  I look forward to sharing your inspirations!


blessings to you,
brian






by brian j plachta on March 21st, 2020

I don’t know about you, but my to-do list was already too-full before the coronavirus struck.

My life was like a drinking glass overflowing with work projects, household chores, and family obligations.

And then along came the coronavirus.

Suddenly, it was like someone dumped gallons of water into my already too-full cup.  

Now, I feel sometimes like I’m drowning. The panic-stricken newscasters warn me the sky is falling. Anxious waves of gushing fear pour over my body.

I have to admit, the “frenzies” grab hold of me and at times won’t let go.

How did life get so crazy? I wonder as I worry about how to protect my family and business during the current challenges. There has to be a better way.

And there is. It’s called Divine Flow.  


Spiritual Practices to Tame the Frenzies and Discover Divine Flow

During these times of self-quarantine and social distancing—as life slows down and we’re forced to stay at home—rather than fretting and distracting ourselves, what if we used this opportunity to dig deep and look at how other people have navigated crisis times such as civil and religious wars, political upheaval, and plagues? How did those wise men and women tame the frenzies?

When we examine the history of the saints, teachers, and gurus—people like Jesus, Saints Benedict, Theresa, and Francis, Buddha, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, and Nelson Mandela—they all had something in common. They adopted and followed a lifestyle that consisted of these four simple practices:

Solitude—

They took time each day to be alone, to quiet their minds and listen, so they could hear the wisdom of God. Today we might call it meditation, contemplation, or the prayer of quiet. The inner peace we seek can also be found through nature walks. Whatever we call it, however we experience it, solitude is about creating space to hear God’s whisper and allowing the Creator to embrace and guide us.

Spiritual Reading—

The wise ones read scripture, spiritual books, and other inspirational writings. They took time each day to ponder the wisdom of others who’d gone before them or whose lives they wished to emulate. As they moved throughout their day, the words they read nourished their minds, fed their hearts, and transformed their lives.

Community—

They surrounded themselves with people who loved and encouraged them—people who stretched them to become the best version of themselves. People who affirmed them and nudged them to grow.

Contemplative Action—

Through listening and seeking inner guidance, the wisdom seekers discovered their unique talents and gifts. They learned who they were, discovered how they were wired, and found their life’s purpose. Armed with self-knowledge, they moved into the world using their talents to sprinkle love and hope upon a hungry universe. They didn’t follow the crowd. They followed their hearts.

I discovered these practices twenty years ago. While I still battle the frenzies, especially during times like these, I’ve found incorporating these habits into my life fills me with a deeper peace—one that surpasses understanding. These practices help me tame the frenzies and connect me with what I call Divine Flow—being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.
 
I invite you to incorporate these Finding Flow practices into your life. Let them be a balm for your spirit during the current crisis.

To begin, establish a daily sacred place and time of 15-20 minutes in which you bring your questions, fears, and anything else on your heart to God. During that quiet time, let Divine Love hold you, guide you, and fill you with the courage and wisdom you need for the day.

During the day or before bedtime, turn off the news and other distractions and spend thirty minutes learning from and calming yourself with the words in a spiritual or inspirational book.

These are two of the practices we’ll be looking at in more detail over the next four weeks through these Simple Wisdom reflections.

Next week, we’ll take a deeper look at solitude. The following week, we’ll focus on spiritual reading, and the next week, community. On the fourth week, we’ll look at contemplative action and discuss a useful tool to discover your own unique gifts and talents.

You might consider the next four weeks a mini-course in how to tame the frenzies. I promise you, it’ll be much more life-giving than staring at the news or social media.

Between now and next week, I invite you to chew on these questions:


•What does “solitude” mean?
•How do I incorporate solitude into my daily life?
•What do I experience during that quiet, sacred space?


Email me this week with your answers (or your questions) at brian@brianplachta.net.  With your permission, I’ll incorporate them into the reflection I write for next week. That way, we can start a conversation about your experience with solitude and offer other readers your insights.

During these unfamiliar times, let’s tame the Coronavirus-frenzies by leaning into the wisdom of the men and women who modeled these four practices, and then let’s incorporate them into our lives. It might be the life raft we need in this anxious storm.



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net




by brian j plachta on March 14th, 2020

Does driftwood have a sound? As wind and water flow over twisted branches in a pebbled stream, do the brambles sing a song?

Do hymns of praise rise from stoic trees bowing broken limbs into spring waterfalls as rushing water carves thickened wood into fragile art?

Waves lap, sunbeams tap, sand grinds, and moonlight rejoices as nature sings its symphony, now One with wooden treasure.  

The sound of driftwood is subtle with a slow and quiet tone. It requires patience and stillness to hear. Nature shapes the wood, softens and etches it with delicate swirls, and with time, transforms restless kindling into peaceful splendor.

We are like driftwood, sitting in quiet meditation day after day, listening to our souls, as the Divine Carpenter gently shapes and forms us.

At first, change is unnoticeable. Our hearts are stiff and stubborn. The chaos of thoughts whirlpool in our minds.

Yet, if we are faithful to our meditation practices, eventually we will look back at our lives and notice something is different.


We experience longer moments of balance and inner peace, and we hear Spirit’s inner guidance. Instead of lashing out at someone who has hurt us, we respond with compassion and forgiveness. We accept the flaws of others and ourselves as we’re embraced by God’s unconditional love.

We are called to become the sound of driftwood. We are invited to let the Master carve our lives through daily silence, solitude, study, and prayer.

And as God’s timeless grace transforms us, our lives echo the sound of driftwood. Our voices fill with praise. Our hands sing love songs as we hold and comfort a widow. Our hearts whisper wisdom—and grumbling transforms into gratitude.

When we touch the lives of others with Divine Love, we help them become the sound of driftwood too.



For further reflection: 
find a twig or a branch. Hold it in your hand. Feel its texture. Then watch and listen to this seven-minute video:  https://youtu.be/ZxXv2n_WHfk

Can you hear the sound of driftwood?


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net







 


by brian j plachta on March 7th, 2020


Imagine this. You’re alone—stuck between floors in an office elevator. It’s after hours. The building is empty. The security guard left for the day. The elevator phone is out of order and your cell phone battery is dead. You ring the emergency alarm a dozen times. Nobody comes to your rescue.

The air thickens. Sweat pours down your back. Your heart pounds with fear.

Like a caged animal, you look up at the elevator ceiling and realize the only way out is to climb the walls, push through the ceiling tiles, and raise yourself to the building rooftop. Once up there, you might call out to someone on the street or scramble down an outside fire escape.

It’s risky. You don’t know what’s on the other side, but the gamble could outweigh the desperation of sitting in a tiny box overnight hoping you’ll be rescued.

What would you do? Wait or raise yourself to the rooftop?

The Upper Limit Problem

In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks says life is like that elevator shaft. We climb to a certain level of success, but then get trapped between the stages of our lives as we cling to our ordinary comfort zone.

Even though we know there’s much more we want to do, we let fear hold us back. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, we sabotage ourselves, fail to embrace our gifts, and so our dreams smolder and die. As the feeling of being stuck becomes grossly familiar, we might even plunge into depression.

According to Hendricks, deep down inside of us, there’s a sense we have a huge unrealized potential, an extraordinary level of success we want to achieve. But we worry we’ll fall short. We’re afraid we can’t attain the ultimate success we can taste, see, and smell.

Hendricks says the problem that holds us back from living full lives is the “Upper Limit Problem.”

What’s Our Upper Limit Problem?

The “Upper Limit” is a psychological place of comfort and success that stunts our growth. We get overly comfortable at a certain stage in life and refuse to let ourselves fully develop and use our unique talents and gifts.

When our inner thermostat gets beyond our normal temperature gauge of happiness, we plug our joy sensor with worry and guilt. We sabotage ourselves with a barrage of negative thoughts, start fights with loved ones or pick up addictions.

Our inner scaredy-cat tells us, “I don’t deserve to be this happy. Be careful. If I let myself enjoy life, the bottom’s going to fall out. I might as well stay stuck in negativity, so I don’t get disappointed.”

These self-destructive attitudes and behaviors keep us stuck in the elevator of unfulfilled lives.

Raise the Roof

Hendricks says we can push through and raise the roof on our Upper Limits by making what he calls the Big Leap into our “Genius Zone.”

When we befriend fear and doubt, and tap into our inner courage, we catapult into the “Genius Zone”—that place where we embrace our giftedness, and live the life we’d hoped for, but didn’t think was possible.

Like an athlete, as we stretch beyond our comfort zone, we strengthen our genius muscles. Our hopes and dreams become a reality. We look back and exclaim, “I did it! I raised the roof!”

Identifying Your Upper Limits


Identifying our Upper Limits when they appear is key to moving beyond them, Hendricks says. They often show up disguised as guilt, fear, self-doubt or negativity. When we name the upper limits that keep us trapped, we can then push through them.

I keep bumping up against the Upper Limit problem as I make progress on the book I’m writing, Finding Flow—Doable Spiritual Practices to Reclaim Inner Peace, Balance, and Wholeness. I want to finish the book, get it into the Universe, and teach spiritual workshops around it so others can reach their full potential.

As I work on the book, my Upper Limit keeps raising itself like an archenemy shouting, “Really? Who do you think you are? You have nothing to say that’s meaningful. There goes your ego, trying to save the world again. Why can’t you be satisfied with your life? Why can’t you play golf or go to the casino?”

My writing coach—who gave me a copy of Hendricks’ book—and my Irish spirit keep pushing me through my Upper Limit daily as I write at my desk. When fear and doubt scold me, I reach out for God’s help, ask him to give me the words he wants to say through me. I remind myself, God’s got this. If I continue to listen and seek Divine Guidance, we’ll continue to raise the roof.

This week consider these key questions:

• What are my Upper Limits?

• How do I allow guilt, worry, self-doubt or negativity prevent me from living the life I want and imagine?

• What are the dreams I want to accomplish?

• How can I stretch beyond my comfort zone so those dreams become a reality?

As part of your Big Leap, maybe find a coach, a spiritual mentor, or a trusted friend to help you name and push through your Upper Limits, because the world needs you to use your full potential to make the Universe a better place.

Embrace your unique gifts and talents. Raise the roof on your Upper Limits. Live the life you’ve imagined.

You are worth it.

—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
------------------------------------------------------------
If you want to Raise Your Roof, Join me for a FREE ONE HOUR WEBINAR:
FINDING FLOW THROUGH COMMUNITY
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm (eastern time).

We'll explore these questions:

Who are the people in my life who help me grow?

Who stretches and nudges me to become the best version of myself?

Who is in (or shouldn't be in) my "Circle of Trust?"

This Webinar will give you practical tools to help you determine whom God has placed in your life to help you grow.

You'll also discover if there are people you're being invited to add to your circle of trust.
Attendance is limited to the first 15 participants.

Register now by clicking this Link:

https://mailchi.mp/3c2684fdb7b6/findingflowwebinar


by brian j plachta on March 1st, 2020

Eighty-four percent of people struggle with irrational fear, according to an article in PRNewswire.  Whether it’s worrying about losing our jobs, failing as a parent, or getting dementia, fear haunts us like a ghost underneath our beds.
 
Some call this irrational fear “anxiety.” It usually attacks our sense of security. Do I have enough money? Will my partner abandon me? Did I remember to blow the candle out? Will I go to heaven?
 
Some fears are healthy. They remind us to look both ways before crossing a street. They nudge us to avoid a growling dog. They help us steer clear of unhealthy relationships.
 
"A little healthy skepticism about activities that could be hazardous and a desire to not make errors is good sense, but when that becomes an inhibiting fear or a dogged refusal to embrace new things in spite of good evidence for adopting change, then it becomes an issue," said Gytis Barzdukas, a guru at the tech company Mozy.
 
The other day I asked a buddy, Ralph, if he felt fear every day like I do. I wondered if I were a freak or just a normal guy with a head full of hidden ghosts like most people.
 
“Sure. Everyone experiences fear,” Ralph replied. “But I’ve found a simple way to quiet my irrational fears. When I’m filled with anxiety or overwhelmed by the what-ifs in my head, I remind myself my basic needs are met. I have sufficient food, water, and shelter, as well as people I love and who love me. I remember I’m safe.”
 
Ralph created an acronym for the word “SAFE” that helps calm an anxious mind. Here it is:
 
(S)ecure—My basic needs are met. I have enough money to pay for groceries and other necessities, a roof to cover me at night, and a handful of people who love me.
 
(A)ware—I’m aware of my need for God. I know life is a team sport with me as the player and the Creator as my coach. Together we travel the ups and downs of life.

(F)ull—My life is full, not just busy. I have meaningful purpose, whether it’s through my job, the volunteer work I do, or the loved ones I serve.

(E)volving—I am growing and learning. I face each day with a beginner’s mind, trusting life is my teacher and I am a student in the classroom of learning how to love myself, others, and God.
 
 
I love Ralph’s simple “I’m safe” wisdom. I wish I could wave a magic wand so I’d never be afraid again. But maybe fear is the rocket fuel of courage. Reminding myself I’m safe propels me through fear into the deep space of inner courage.
 
Like Ralph, when irrational fears raise their ghost-like head, maybe I can let the Creator gently nudge me and ask the simple question, “Are you safe?”
 
 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
 







by brian j plachta on February 20th, 2020

“Why don’t you put your books away, go outside, and play with your friends?” my mom would prod during summer vacation. Why don’t I? I wondered. Was there something wrong with me? Why did I enjoy sitting alone reading more than hanging out with friends?

The answer came years later, and it’s pretty simple. I’m an innie, not an outie.

“Know thyself and you will know the universe and God,” said the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Self-knowledge is key to Truth and Inner Wisdom. As we seek a deeper understanding and relationship with God, we also learn more about who we are and how we’re wired.

Just like some people have belly buttons that protrude outward and others have ones that project inward, people are made with two types of personalities. God creates some individuals as extroverts—they’re outies. He creates others as introverts—they’re innies.

One way of knowing ourselves better is to determine if we’re an innie or an outie.  

What’s an Innie?

In her book, Insight—Reflections on the Gifts of Being an Introvert, Beth Beulow explains
an introvert gains energy by being alone. Their energy drains when around too many people. Their insight about life comes from within. They recharge by taking time for solitude.

Innies need time alone. At a loud party, they may need to step into the bathroom for a few minutes to reconnect with themselves and to quiet the chatter of the world.

Their challenge is to avoid isolating themselves from others—and to stop thinking there’s something wrong with them because they’re different from the extrovert majority.  

According to Beulow, “Introverts are internal processors. Their primary source of information and point of reference comes from within themselves. This doesn’t mean they are self-absorbed or oblivious to others; they simply rely first and foremost on their inner thoughts to guide them. When an introvert receives information, she takes it in and flips it this way and that in her mind until it’s right-side-up enough to be shared with the world.”

What’s an Outie?


Extroverts gain energy from other people. They’re outgoing. They’re revitalized by being with others because they process life by discussion. Their energy comes from outside themselves. Outies are enriched by dining with friends, dancing at parties, and discovering new people.

Beulow writes, “Extroverts rely more heavily on external stimulus to inform their views and choices. They tend to be verbal processors; rather than spending lots of time in quiet contemplation, they want to talk it out. When confronted with a challenge or decision, the extrovert will pull in people for brainstorming or discussion.”  

Outies’ invitation is to balance the outward excitement they thrive on by meditating, spending time in nature, or taking long walks. This reconnects them with the deeper spiritual perspective we all need to gain wisdom.

How Do I Know If I’m an Innie or an Outie?

God planted both types of people in the garden of humanity. Neither of these personality traits is better than the other. God balances Creation through the ying and yang of innies and outies.

Years ago, a Myers-Briggs test suggested I had traits of both an introvert and an extrovert. Confused by the results, I asked the professor how to determine my personality type.

She solved my dilemma with a question. “When you’re exhausted, when life has drained your energy, what recharges you?” she asked. “Sitting alone in the quiet or calling friends to go out for dinner?”

My answer was clear. I recharge in solitude. My mantra—which I hope my wife will engrave on my headstone—is “Quiet Time solves everything.”

By asking ourselves how we recharge, we can discover whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert. As we do so, we can better understand ourselves so we can continue to grow into our truest self.

Below are two charts that help depict the unique needs of innies and outies.
 
This week, ask yourself how you recharge. Determine which personality type best describes you. Then honor and nurture your uniqueness.

Also, consider the personality styles of your loved ones. Are they hard-wired differently from you?  If so, enjoy and respect the ying and yang of these two delicious ways the Creator has balanced the Universe.

Celebrate the gifts of innies and outies.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on February 14th, 2020

A smile curled across my face as I cradled my newborn grandson in my arms. Swaddled in a blanket, peacefully sleeping, he cupped his hands together on his tiny chest as if praying.

He was like a precious pearl. Beautiful. Innocent. Glowing.

His parents will teach him much. They will let him know he is loved. They will sing lullabies to him, rock him, and hold his tiny body next to theirs as three hearts beat with joy and laughter.

They will teach him about God. They’ll gaze together at star-sprinkled skies, touch blades of grass to his fingertips, and lift his nose to the fragrance of Spring lilacs. And my grandson’s heart will fill with wonder and joy as he experiences the magnificence of the Divine.

Together, my son and daughter-in-law will teach their son how to play in nature, how to pray, and how to connect with the Creator.

Like a pearl that’s shaped and molded within the shell of an oyster, my grandson will learn layers of truth as he ages. His body, mind, and spirit will expand as he discovers infinite oceans of life and love.

He will also learn untruths. Someone will tell him he’s bad. The schoolyard bully will taunt him, poke fun at his glasses. His heart will break when a loved one dies or walks away. Layers of hurt and pain will cover the shell of his pearl-like life.

Like us all, when my grandson becomes an adult, he will need to learn how to unlearn so he can learn.

One-by-one the sand-like irritants—the falsehoods that shroud his heart—will need to be exposed, sanded, and removed to let the innocent pearl within my grandson’s soul shine with time-worn brilliance. He will need to replace the untruths with truth so he can grow in wisdom.

The falsehoods he must unlearn are universal. They are adopted through life experiences. Here’s a handful with which I’m still wrestling, with the corresponding truths I hope to learn and pass on to my grandson:
 
•God is a tyrant, ready to bop us on the head and throw us into a fiery pit of damnation unless we worship him
. No, dear Grandson, God is love. He’s here to guide and hold you. He’ll protect you. He’ll never let you go—even if you forget him. Like your parents, the Divine Parent wants you to be happy.

•You are bad, flawed, and broken.
No, Grandchild, don’t believe the lies. You are good. God made you in his Divine Image. The Holy Spirit dwells in and through you. You are not God and you are not other than God. Remember what you knew as a tiny infant as you cupped your hands and prayed: God is good and so are you.

•You need nobody, especially God.
That’s not true, Grandson. It’s another crusty layer we develop to protect our hearts from pain. But God did not cause the pain. People did. God never left you. He’s always there as your life partner. He co-creates love within and through you. If you throw him off your team, you’ll be incomplete and you’ll experience more suffering through misguided choices. Let God in. Seek him. He will guide you.

•Grandson, remember this truth: “Quiet time solves everything.” As your world fills with busyness, responsibilities, and stress, the cure for life’s chaos is found in quiet solitude. As Jesus did, take time daily to sit and listen to the Father. He has a Voice—a Soothing Whisper like the wind—and you can learn to hear it again. The Holy Spirit will teach you. The Voice of Love is your Wisdom Guide.

Your parents and grandparents will not likely be with you all the days of your life, but God will be with you forever. Let the Creator help you unlearn the falsehoods and relearn the truths about yourself and life.

As you grow, learn how to unlearn so you can learn.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net









Categories
Tags
#God #blessing #contemplation #distractions #faith #father's day #father #fear #growth #i deepen #inner growth #inner peace #interruptions #peace #prayer #rise #spirituality #wholeness Arise Creator Divine God is good God loves me God revealed God with skin God's Blessing God's voice; true voice; experience God's voice God-nudge God Gurdjieff Heart Space Holy spirit I am good I love God Is God Real? Jewish Tradition New Year Now One Onieng Present Moment Quiet the Mind Resolutions Rohr Science Soul of America Soul Time addiction advent alive am I enough? animal spirts antidote awake balance believe belonging beloved bird feeding breath of God breathe breath calming the mind cats centering prayer center charisms choosing our thoughts christmas christ civility common good community connected contemplation conversations with God daily tension desire difficult people discernment divine embrace divine presence divine reading do your best dog doubts dreams drop the stones easter election embodiment embraced embrace enjoy enough eucharist exercise faith fake news false self falsehoods family fear find your voice flip the switch flow theory flow forgiveness forgive freedom gifts gratitude grow up growth grow grumpy guide happiness harmony heart mind connection heart-brake heart hear heaven held hidden holy nudges how much is enough? humanity i okay imagination imperfect incarnation injoy inner grump inner journey inner peace inner strength inner touch inner work innocence inspiration integrity joseph journey joy law of three laying down our life lectio divina lens let god let go life is good life's purpose life-giving life light of the world listen live love live love ourselves love you prayer love me time meaning meditation mentoring mentor metaphors for God mind chatter monkey mind morning mystic nature nudges nudge okay open your heart open ordinary life original blessing original sin peace phoenix plastic jesus poke politics positive practicing presence prayer of the Self prayer pray presecne presence prodigal son purpose quiet time quiet real presence reflection relationship remember resurrection retreat rhythm of life right brain right living running from God running from myself sacrament samuel screwtape scripture seeds self esteem self respect self-giving self-love self-respect self-respec self-talk separation silence simplicity solitude solomon soul's voice speak spiriitual spirit of God spiritual gifts spirituality spiritual spirit strength stroke suffering survivor talents teacher tension the voice of God the voice of the soul this moment transfigure transformation transform true self trust jesus truth unconditional love virtue voice of God voice of love voice walking meditation walking we are the second c coming of Christ what i believe whisper who is your teacher? wholeness why am i here? wisdom keeper wisdom worry wounds
Subscribe