brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on July 19th, 2019

Daily meditation has been proven to help:
  • Reduce depression, tiredness, and fatigue
  • Improve attention, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility
  • Grow your brain and improve information processing
Sound too good to be true?

Research provides strong evidence that meditation improves psychological and physiological well-being. It not only helps us think more clearly, but it also slows down brain activity, allowing our body to calm itself.

Wow! Meditation is a game-changer!

The Inner Experience of God

So, what about the spiritual components of meditation? How does meditation impact our relationship with God and our core selves?

According to Father Thomas Keating, meditation allows us to move beyond the mere intellectual understanding of God so we can deepen our individual relationship with him. Through regular meditation practice, we develop an “inner experience” of the Holy Spirit that then guides, affirms, and teaches us how to live with inner peace and wholeness.

Keating writes in his book, Open Mind, Open Heart:

“The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from Him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced. We fail to believe that we are always with God and that He is part of every reality.

“The present moment, every object we see, our inmost nature are all rooted in Him. But we hesitate to believe this until our personal experience gives us confidence to believe in it. This involves the gradual development of intimacy with God [through meditation].”

Meditation Is Not Something We Do. It’s a Way of Being.

When Father Joachim Lally teaches contemplative prayer, he likes to stress "receptivity" instead of "activity." He says, people often believe that prayer is all about our efforts, rather than God's. But Psalm 46 tells us to, “Stop striving, and know God.”

Put another way, when we meditate, our “monkey-minds” often try to take control and think our way to God—or they get stuck focusing on whatever else pops into our heads. The result? Noisy chatter.

If, instead, we view meditation as creating sacred inner space for us to listen to God, then our job is to simply show up and let the Creator have his loving way with us. It’s not something we are “doing.”  It’s “being.” Being present to the moment. Being an empty wine skin so God can fill us with whatever we need for the day.

 Creating an Empty Container

So how do we empty ourselves? How do we avoid making meditation a “doing” instead of a “being”?

There is no right or wrong way to meditate.  It comes down to what works for you. Experimenting with different practices can be the nudge God uses to find what’s “just right” for you and him.

Since the mind can only think one thought at a time, many find it helpful to have a simple container to hold the practice of being still and quieting the chatter in our heads so we can listen to God’s whisper.

Here are ways you can try to still the wandering mind.

Sacred Sounds

Simply pay attention to the sounds in and around you as a way of focusing. 
  • The sound of your breathing becomes a holy sound as you recall every breath is the breath of God breathing in and through you since the moment of birth.
  • The ordinary sounds of birds chirping outside an open window become a sacred sound as you recognize you are part of nature’s chorus praising the Divine.
  • Even the sound of morning rush hour traffic outside your window can become a litany of praise as you ponder the blessing of work that allows you and others to earn daily bread.
Sacred Word
Another popular way of centering yourself during meditation is to ask God for a word or short phrase to hold in your heart.

Simple words like love, patience, trust, or courage often anchor our minds, connecting them to our hearts as they become a sacred word or phrase.

If you receive a word or phrase during your meditation, you might jot it down on a sticky note or posting it on your to-do list to bring you back throughout the day to this rich centering practice.
Sacred Body
The quickest way to quiet the mind, one mentor taught me, is to focus on the body.
  • Place your hand on your heart. Notice its gentle beat, its warmth, and how the blood pumps to every part of your body, creating a peaceful inner flow. 
  • Do a body scan starting from your head to your toes. Notice how each member of your body performs a unique act that allows you to function as a vital human. 
  • Focus on your breath. Feel the air wisp in and through your lungs with no effort on your part other than to receive the gift of oxygen from the Creator, letting it flow in and through you.
Find Your Feet

Place your feet flat on the floor. Notice the connection between them and the earth that lies underneath the room you are in.  Feel the sensations in your feet as they rest on the floor. Even better—go outside with bare feet and feel the cool grass or the sand at the beach. There’s something calming about touching the earth with your skin. It seems to connect us to our Creator, to our God.

As you move throughout the day, take a moment to “find your feet” as way of re-grounding yourself in the Presence of each moment.

Nature Speaks

Take a walk around your neighborhood or at a park. Notice God’s abundant creation. Pay attention to the flowers, the grass, the birds—and all the tiny critters who inhabit our space with us.

Let some part of nature “find you” as the Creator surprises you through the landscape of your heart.

Could Meditation be a Game-Changer for You?

The ancient practice of daily meditation has grown in popularity throughout the last decade thanks to the many men and women who have taught its vital importance in the Christian faith.  Some would say this resurgence in personal meditation practice is the work of the Holy Spirit calling us to take time each day to be alone with God, allowing the Whisper of the Holy Spirit to guide us in the pathway of Divine Love.

Could it be that simple?  Is daily meditation God’s game-changer for you and the Universe?

—brian j plachta

Check out Mark 1:35 to see how Jesus meditated:
“Before daybreak, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”

by brian j plachta on July 12th, 2019

Scripture tells us, “God is love,” and “God so loved the world he sent his only son that we might have eternal life.” Neat concepts, but these familiar lines can lose their impact and become ho hum when they don’t touch our hearts.

We might put these words into context to let them take on new life in and through us.
Maybe we can pull out a divine recipe card, a spoon, and a mixing bowl, and cook up a deeper understanding of what God’s been up to in his Kitchen for trillions of years as the Divine Baker.

Here’s a theory to chew on.

The First Creation

What if God—who is Divine Love—decided a billion years ago he wanted to place his Spirit into matter.  He thought it would be neat to sprinkle the ingredient of Divine Love, his DNA, into plants and birds, lions and tigers, lakes and streams, stars and planets, cats and dogs. 

And then he got another idea—how about I create humans too, and place my seed of Divine Love in them? And poof, God’s dream became a reality as he spooned his Divinity into our humanity.

God then stepped back and looked at all he created. He smiled a divine smile as he saw his Spirit of Love sparkling in matter. And it was good. Beautiful.

The Second Creation

Then millenniums later, God wanted to remind humans of how much the Creator loves us because we’d forgotten. He wanted to give another tangible example of his unconditional love. So, the Creator put Jesus into the world.  Jesus’ feet walked the earth’s soil for thirty-three years. St. Paul described him as the One who did good, and God was with him.

God was happy seeing how his son loved, healed, and taught us we are love and loved.
But we got confused. We didn’t understand the Divine Recipe. Jesus was too much for us—too much love—and so we beat him up and put him to death so nobody would follow in his footsteps.

Even while suffering, however, Jesus continued to say, “I love you unconditionally. You can do anything to me, spit at me, mock me, and nail my arms and legs onto a tree, and I will still love you.”

And he did.

God then completed his Recipe by sending the Holy Spirit, and placing the Divine Spirit into our human hearts
. The Holy Spirit now lives within us to guide, give wisdom, and remind us we are loved—and we are love.

The Third Creation
If God is the Divine Baker, his desire is to continually pour more love into the batter of the universe. So, God lets us become part of the Divine Recipe.  We are the rest of God’s unfolding story.
We co-create with God through the help of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, we’re invited to do good, and God is with us as we become part of God’s plan.

The cool thing is, we get to choose the ingredients of how we incarnate the Creator’s love in the world.

When we give a hug, smile at a stranger, birth a child, or serve bread to the hungry, we become part of God’s desire to place Divine Spirit into matter as we multiply love.

With the Divine Recipe in mind, the words, “God so loved the world” take on new meaning because we are the ingredients through which the Creator mixes more Love into the world.

And the Divine Recipe’s not complete without your life. You and I are the third creation.

As Saint Teresa says, Christ has no body now but ours, so we’ve been given the freedom and responsibility to become part of the Universal mixing bowl of Love.

The Holy Baker invites us to move with compassion and grace into the world’s kitchen—to knead and spread love into the dough of our lives and the lives of all we encounter.

The Divine Baker’s Recipe is simple: we are love(d).

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on July 5th, 2019

My buddy encouraged me years ago to join him for daily gym workouts. He’d faithfully meet me at the Y most weekdays at 6 a.m. We joked that like Hans and Frans on Saturday Night Live, we were there to “Pump it up!”

Some workouts were great. My muscles twanged like fine-tuned rubber bands, thanking me for stretching and helping them grow.

Other days were tough. My muscles screamed, “You’re killing me! Quit this insanity!”

Our workouts consisted of the pleasant tension between pain and joy. The hard work of exercise stretched, strained, and sometimes hurt like heck, yet the long-term effects of feeling healthy and strong made the daily effort worth it.

Like our physical bodies, our spiritual bodies also need daily exercise to flex and grow so they don’t become flabby. Our hearts are the spiritual parts of our being that contain our souls. They’re our lifeline to God and our core self.  

When we take time each day to connect with our inner selves through quiet times of solitude such as meditating, taking morning or evening walks, journaling, creating art, or spending time in nature, we exercise our spirits so we can listen deeply and hear the quiet voice of wisdom and truth.

Exercising our spiritual muscles has the same pleasant tension as working out at the gym. Some days we sit in solitude and feel the connection between God and our souls. The thin veil between the Divine Heart and our human hearts swooshes open. We experience love, peace, and inner guidance.

Other times, we fidget during our times of solitude. The monkey mind won’t stop its incessant chatter. We strain and stress and feel disconnected. At those times, we’re tempted to stop showing up for our soul work because we can’t see the results.

However, like going to the gym each day, if we continue our daily spiritual exercises, we eventually experience the fruit of our inner work—our connection with our core selves and with God grows stronger.

We feel blessed when a loved one gives us a hug, a client thanks us for a project well done, or a robin chirps sweetly. We stop and give thanks more frequently. And as we brush our teeth before bed, the smile winking back at us in the mirror reflects the joy taken up residence in our hearts.

On those days when the dog poops on our new carpet, a loved one criticizes our efforts, or we slip and twist an ankle, our daily routine of spiritual exercises softens our response. Instead of staying stuck in the why-me mode, we calmly clean up our pet’s mess as we realize we can be messy too; we walk away from a fight with a loved one, gently standing in the truth of knowing who we really are; and we listen to the throb of our sore ankle inviting us to slow our pace, to take time to rest and recharge.

Exercising our spiritual muscles allows us to accept the pleasant tension between life’s joy and suffering.

Joy encourages our spirits to be kind—to smile and compliment the checkout clerk who looks like she’s having a bad day; to give a word of encouragement to a struggling friend; or to visit our lonely aunt in a nursing home. And when we see the results of joy—when the love we give is returned—we’re encouraged to love and live with greater joy.

Suffering teaches our hearts that pain is also a necessary part of our spirits’ workout. When a friend says “let’s have lunch” but never returns our text to schedule it; when a co-worker goes behind our back to tattle to the boss how we’ve messed up on a project; when we give our last ounce of love to someone who fails to notice it—on those days, suffering is there to stretch our hearts to grow in unconditional love and patience.

We rarely like suffering, and sometimes we get too busy to notice love. Yet, when we learn how to Pump It Up!, ours souls move to an ever-deepening level of spiritual fitness.

—brian j plachta


by brian j plachta on June 27th, 2019

We go through life often thinking there’s something wrong with us. There’s a voice inside our heads that mummers some part of us is flawed, broken, in need of repair. That voice wreaks havoc on our psyche, telling us we need to make ourselves “right.”

Fixing ourselves becomes our life’s project. 

That nagging voice comes from an untruth we learned as we grew up. Like a dandelion root, it grows slowly beneath the surface of our personalities. Sometimes it’s nurtured by faith traditions that overemphasize sin instead of God’s unconditional love. Other times it comes from family members through mocking, cruel words, or manipulation. Over time, the untruth blooms in our psyche like a dandelion weed scattering seeds of discontent within us, choking us off from sowing the good seed of love toward ourselves and others.

It’s time we grab a shovel and dig the dandelion root out. Time to go to the source of our learned untruth, and replace it with the real truth.

The other day while driving I was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Ball and Plymouth streets.  As I waited for the light to turn green, a gentle whisper rose up in my gut saying,

“There’s nothing wrong with you.”  

What? I pondered.

There’s nothing to fix,” the words echoed in my heart.

In that moment, sixty years of self-doubt unearthed as the words exposed the root of untruth I had fostered all those years. It was if an angel had come and lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders.

Later that week, I shared my experience with my spiritual director.  He helped me realize that that moment at the intersection of Ball and Plymouth was a moment of divine grace; a time when the thin veil between God and ourselves parts, and the Creator touches our souls.

Sure, we all have parts of ourselves that need to mature. But when we stop beating ourselves up with falsehoods and self-doubt, we’re able to name our shadow side, embrace it with love, bring it into the light, so God help us evolve into the best version of ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with us
. That’s the truth God revealed in that moment of grace.

The world needs each of us to let go of the false tales we’ve told ourselves, so we can dig deep into the truth: we are the expression of God’s love in the world. Before we were conceived, God decided he needed each one of us to complete the universe, to receive and sow God’s divine love in and through us and out into Creation. As God breathed his first breath into our lungs at our birth, God proclaimed, “You are good.”

What’s the false tale you’ve told yourself over the years?  Where might God be nudging you to pick up your shovel and unearth the weeds of falsehood that choke our souls?

Can you open your heart and allow grace to help you embrace the truth, “You are good. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 21st, 2019

“C’mon Grandpa. Let’s watch cartoons. Daniel the Tigers on,” my grandson coaxed, patting his tiny three-year old hand on the couch.

“I should go sit with him,” I thought. “But, I have so much to do today—cut the grass, trim the bushes, spread mulch.” Wavering, I plopped down on the couch next to my grandson. We chuckled as Daniel the Tiger and his family frolicked across the television screen.

Daniel was sitting alongside his mother licking a blueberry popsicle. When he realized there were four other flavors in the freezer, Daniel whined, “I want a raspberry one.”

Gently, Daniel’s mother replied, “Daniel, if you’re focused on what you don’t have, you’ll miss the joy of what’s happening now. Instead of complaining, let’s find the wow in the now.”

Her words struck me like a thanks-I-needed-that slap across the face. I caught my anxious self, living in the future, missing the joy of that moment cuddling with my grandson in our pajamas, wrapped in his teddy bear blanket.

“Find the wow in the now,” I repeated to myself.

Soon, my grandson and I were dancing across the living room floor singing Find the Wow in the Now. Our bellies jiggled. My heart lightened. I let go of the day’s chores that no longer seemed so important.

I recalled the wisdom of Lao Tzu:

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are in the present.

Maybe finding the wow in the now is the how of discovering peace in the present moment. I decided to adopt “finding the wow in the now” as a spiritual practice to ground me in the present moment.

Putting it into action during my morning shower, I turned on the faucet, watched the water flow upon my skin and thought, “Wow. I have clean water to cleanse myself.”

As I lifted the soap with my arm, I realized, “Wow. I have arms that stretch and flex allowing me to bathe myself.”

And as I sat at the breakfast table surrounded by my wife and grandchildren, I pondered, “Wow. I’m surrounded by people I love, and who love me.”  My heart soared with gratitude.

As you move throughout your day, focus your attention on what’s happening now. See if what’s ordinary becomes extraordinary as you find the wow in the now.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 13th, 2019

“How much do you want for the bicycle?” the garage sale shopper asked.

“Ten dollars,” I said. “My daughter used to put Barbie dolls in the basket.” As if it were yesterday, I envisioned my little girl’s pigtails helicoptering above her head as she pedaled around the neighborhood. “That was twenty years ago. She’s married now. Lives in California. And, boy, do I miss her.”

“I’ll take it.” The woman’s eyes glimmered from behind round spectacles, revealing her grandmother heart. “It’s for my five-year old granddaughter. She loves Barbies too. We’ll have lots of fun.”

I sensed Garage Sale Grandma knew the joy and excitement of watching children grow. Her crinkled face suggested she understood how quickly those tender years pass—and how important it is to let the memories of our children continue to play sweet songs in our hearts.
I tightened my hands around the handlebars for a few seconds, but then helped Grandma boost the bike-full of memories into her van. As she pulled from the curb, she turned back to smile with joy and understanding. I waved to her. My heart smiled too.

Garage sales foster a special flavor of kindness among people. One person lets go of clutter filled with timeless recollections; the other receives worn-torn treasures with which to build new memories. There’s an unspoken respect—a silent sacredness—that connects kindred spirits as one lets go of the past and gifts it to another’s future.

I wish we could sell the kindness that permeates neighborhood garage sales. But kindness has no price and can’t be sold.

Kindness is the generous spirit of love we build every day by the attitudes and practices we adopt. It begins with the way we treat ourselves. Can we allow ourselves to make mistakes?  Can we laugh it off when we  pour motor oil into our lawnmower—and then see our error announced when clouds of smoke sputter out the muffler?

Can we take time for ourselves to ease into the day rather than rushing into it? Meditation, prayer, time in solitude as we talk with God and sip morning coffee, these practices that nurture us, can turn our hearts into the precious gold of love multiplied.

Take time to experience kindness today. Feel its softness when you care for yourself by praying, meditating, reading, talking with God, taking a long, hot shower. Slowing down.

Practice the Zen of garage sale kindness. It’s contagious.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on June 6th, 2019

“Focus on the problem, and the problem increases. Focus on the solution, and the solution increases.” Twelve-step programs offer that tidbit of wisdom to help work through life’s challenges.

Chris, a spiritual friend recently had an opportunity to put this problem-solving tool into practice. Over a cup of coffee, my friend complained he was overwhelmed by problems with his spouse, his children, and his job.

“I feel like I’ve got a huge snowball building up inside me. Troubles keep rolling at me like a growing avalanche. I’ve tried to talk with God about all this stuff, but I get confused about what to do. I feel stuck. Lost.”

After he vented, I invited Chris to close his eyes and silently ask God to help him identify each problem he faced.

After sitting for a few moments in silence, Chris opened his eyes.

I handed him a blank sheet of paper. “Draw a circle for each problem troubling you.”

Chris drew five circles representing the snowballs that made up his emotional avalanche. Next, he wrote a word or phrase in the center of each circle to name that problem.

Finally, Chris sought Divine Wisdom so he could discern which fixes were the best for each situation. He then wrote down a list of possible solutions.

As he came up with concrete resolutions for each problem, Chris’s tight jaw relaxed. His eyes brightened and he grinned.

“Wow!” Chris held up the paper. “It worked. I named each problem, and then shifted my focus to solutions. I now have positive steps I can take to resolve the troubles I’m facing. I don’t feel stuck anymore. I feel free.”

This practice might sound simplistic. But it works, especially when combined with prayer. It’s surprising how simple habits can resolve the problems life throws at us.

The next time you feel an avalanche of problems rolling over you like a huge snowball, pull out a blank sheet of paper, identify the problems, and then shift your focus onto solutions.

See if the twelve-step adage rings true: Focus on the problem, and the problem increases. Focus on the solution, and the solution increases.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on May 30th, 2019

Give me three!” my grade school football coach shouted when he caught one of us guys fooling around at practice. We knew what that meant—we had to run three laps around the track at full tilt.  After a few times of messing around and suffering our self-inflicted punishment, we typically shaped up.

In a similar fashion, a spiritual direction client at the rehab center where I volunteer, told me he and his three roommates noticed how much negative talk they engaged in throughout the day. Whether they’re bashing themselves or judging others, he said, they noted how the negativity became habit forming and dragged down their spirits.

Focusing on a solution to alleviate their negative spiral, the guys declared a “positivity week.”  Every time they caught themselves or one of their roommates grousing, they’d stop and demand, “Give me three!”  The one caught, then had to declare aloud three positive characteristics about the person he’d trashed.  

After several days, the guys noticed their negative behavior softened. Like my grade school football coach, the “give me three” practice instilled a more positive attitude and spirit. This positivity flowed into their day, allowing them to experience gratitude regardless of the day’s events.

Their practice struck me as simple, yet profound. I noticed how often I trash myself with self-doubt and criticism. I wouldn’t treat my best friend the way I treat myself, I observed.

I declared my own positivity week. I vowed every time I judged myself or others, I’d stop and name three positive characteristics about the victim.

Initially, I resisted this new practice and defaulted back into negativity. After several days, however, I noticed how “give me three” reshaped my thoughts and perspective. I realized I was retraining my brain to become more optimistic.

I likely must watch my self-talk for the rest of my life to avoid slipping back into negativity. I’m going to use the “give me three” practice to help me maintain a positive spirit that’s much more life-giving. It’s a practical tool I’m putting into my life’s toolbox.

What if you and I declare a “positivity” week? Every time we notice negativity rearing its ugly head in self-doubt or demeaning judgment, we train ourselves (and perhaps our family and friends) to go full tilt and “give me three!”  It could be the start of something new—something life-giving for all of us.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on May 22nd, 2019

Order. Disorder. Reorder— A Pattern for Spiritual Development.

When my wife and I were pregnant for each of our four children, we noticed a certain pattern, a predictable cycle, unfold.

During the nine months of pregnancy, an initial order developed as my wife nurtured the baby and herself with vitamins and a healthy diet. Joy saturated our hearts as we picked the lemon hues and sunshine theme for the baby’s room, set up the crib, and pondered the name we’d give our child. And as I laid my head on my wife’s bursting belly at night, the baby’s kicks lulled me into knowing everything was right in our world.

Then came the disorder of labor, transition, and delivery. The quiet nights of eating ice cream on the couch as we sang lullabies to our unborn child gave way to my wife’s thrashing on a sterile hospital bed after she’d thrown a pillow across the room screaming, “You did this to me!” Contractions rocked her body. She grabbed my shirt collar and shrieked with pain. Fear and confusion whirlwinded through our minds as we wondered if we’d be able to endure.

Just when it seemed the labor and transition had no end, the doctor whispered in my wife’s ear, “You can push now,” and the birth of a beautiful infant ushered reorder into our lives. As I cut my child’s umbilical cord and held him to my chest, everything changed. Our fear and pain disappeared, replaced by a deeper peace and joy than we’d imagined possible.

 Order. Disorder. Reorder.

That pattern, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr teaches, is the pattern for all human growth. It’s the growing pain of how we mature. It’s the life-giving cycle of spiritual development.

Jesus modeled this pattern. For thirty-three years, his life was mostly one of order and predictability as he preached and spread God’s love through his healing words and actions.

Then came the disorder of his passion and death. He endured the agony in the Garden, the piercing with thorns, the whipping, and finally the crucifixion on a wooden cross. The suffering he tolerated taught us that pain is the springboard for growth and resurrection.

Once Christ pushed through Good Friday, past Holy Saturday and into Easter Sunday, he returned with a new order and poured the Light of Love and Wisdom—the Holy Spirit—into our hearts.

Our lives also reflect this pattern. We go to school or work. We tend to our daily chores. There’s comfort in the order of ordinary days.

Then something happens that disrupts our orderly lives. It might be something big—a loved one dies, we get injured, we develop an addiction, or our marriage crumbles.

It might be something less traumatic. We’re overwhelmed by life’s busyness. Our lives seem to lack purpose. An unnamed inner yearning haunts us.

Regardless of the size of the disorder, its pain sets in like an ominous gray cloud as we experience loss, confusion, or even depression.

Society teaches us to distract ourselves or numb our pain. According to the blur of television and magazine ads, there’s always a pill, a car, a video-game, or some glory-halleluiah seminar that instantly will take away our pain.

But just as seeds have to push through the pod, grind through the crusty ground, and reach for the sun to grow, we too must pass through and push beyond the suffering towards the Light to experience inner growth.

If we resist the disorder of suffering, if we try to blot it out or numb it, we stay stuck. We don’t grow.

But if, as St. Ignatius tells us, we gently push against the desolation of disorder by seeking deeper wisdom and connection with God and our Inner Selves, we find the transition—while still painful—often leads to a life-giving reorder of our lives.

Ask yourself occasionally: what part of life’s cycle am I in?

If order---continue on your path of growth.

If disorder---don’t run from it. Embrace it as an invitation to grow. Find your Garden of Gethsemane, and in the solitude ask God to lead you through the transition.

Once you experience "reorder" know it’s the Light that brought you through the darkness—and that it will continue to do so time and time again. This is how we do it.

--brian j plachta
originally published in Converge Magazine

by brian j plachta on May 17th, 2019

“Change the channel,” my mom or her friend Louise would say whenever negativity clouded their conversations. 

Like a “Thanks. I needed that” wop across the cheek, “change the channel” reminded them to stay positive. It helped them switch the television station in their heads from the blare of negative complaining and gossip to awareness of what was right in their worlds.

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson in his podcast, Hardwiring Happiness, reports that several studies suggest our brains may be hardwired to focus on problems instead of solutions.
We dwell on bad experiences long after they’ve passed, and worry about what might go wrong well before it happens.

Hanson’s studies show that positive thoughts or feelings quickly disappear from the mind’s radar unless we consciously hold them for at least fifteen seconds, the time needed to leave an imprint on our neurons.

By holding our positive thoughts and feelings in our mind’s eye for just a few seconds, we create positive memory traces in our brains.

Maybe Louise, Hanson, and my mom are onto something. By changing the channel in our minds and intentionally training our brains to hold onto positive words, thoughts, and feelings, we can alter our moods. Eventually, if we practice positive visioning over a period time, the direction of our lives moves toward lasting peace and happiness.

Eastern religious traditions call this practice centering ourselves through a mantra. We literally train our brains to quiet, connect with our hearts, and seek deeper inner compassion.
Phrases like, “I am love and loved; I am God’s Beloved; I am at peace,” keep the mind focused and positively affect the mind, body, and spirit connection.

St. Paul called it “Rejoicing in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4-9). Today we might call it contemplation, centering prayer, or mindfulness.

Regardless of what we name the practice, it points in the same direction the book of Proverbs instructs: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

I tried this change-the-channel practice. One of the daily inspirational emails I receive offered this affirmation, so I ran with it, and held it in my mind’s eye:

"I now affirm that life is good and unfolding in miraculous ways."

Following Hanson’s instruction that the brain needs to retain the positive thought for at least fifteen seconds for it to take hold in our neurons, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and savored the words.

My jaw untensed. My breathing slowed. Calm came over me. I felt connected with God and myself.

As I went about my day, I noticed my mind would ricochet back to its negative thought pattern. I had to train myself to become aware when the negative thoughts creeped back in, and then use the affirmation to re-center and ground myself in the “good medicine.”

Critics might say this practice is simply new age mumbo-jumbo. They can even claim we are not trusting God if we rely on our own will power.

I suppose if we take God out of the practice, it does become an ego-centered way of trying to feel good.

But, when grounded in a prayerful, grateful heart, and steeped in a deeper awareness of God’s love and acceptance, it actualizes 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
"Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Put simply—when negativity sets in, change the channel.

—brian j plachta

#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