brian j plachta
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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



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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


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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
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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





by brian j plachta on February 7th, 2020

“Your face is going to crack if you don’t stop frowning,” my dad used to tease Mom.  “Why don’t you put your happy face back on? It looks so much better than that scowl.”

Mom puckered her lipstick-red lips and forced a tooth-filled smile across her face. My parents would burst into laughter.

My siblings and I called Dad the “smile police.” If he caught us with a grumpy look, he’d coax a grin out of us.

Dad said something magical happens when we smile. But what was it, we wondered?

The Science of Smiling


According to an article in Neuronation.com, when you smile, the brain and bloodstream flood with the feel-good chemicals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These natural painkillers relax the muscles in our body. They also work to reduce stress by lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. We feel happy.

Babies seem to instinctively know the value of a smile as they fill the room with oodles of coos. Their giggles become contagious.

As we move from childhood into adulthood—with the increased stress and strain of responsibilities—we often forget to smile. Maybe if we practice what Dad preached, we might avoid becoming a grumpy old goodger. But how?


Smiling as Meditation Practice

Ray, a friend, recently told me he likes to keep his quiet time with God simple. So, he uses smiling as a meditation practice. After he gets his morning cup of coffee, lights a candle, and sits in his favorite chair, he closes his eyes and smiles for ten to twenty minutes.

The tense muscles in his face ease. His jaw unlocks. Eyebrows soften. His spirit lightens. Scattered thoughts settle.

He basks in the feeling of relaxation. Whenever his thoughts run rampant like scattered mice, he gently returns attention to his smile.  
 
Ray carries his smiling practice into the day, he says. When stressed while driving or at the office, he takes a “smile break.” It lightens his mood. Compassion flows through his body. These smile breaks allow him to reconnect with himself and God. And the self-love he experiences spills over into how he treats others during the day.

Some say the magic of a smile is the Holy Spirit’s healing energy within us. It’s the Divine Spark of Love that triggers the relaxation response in our bodies and floods our emotions and spirits with compassion and wisdom.  

Tao Master Mantak Chia teaches the Inner Smile Meditation. While meditating with eyes closed, he suggests we draw attention to our vital organs—the heart, eyes, lungs, etc., and simply smile at them, thanking them for the on-going job they perform to sustain and enhance our lives. In doing so, we touch the healing power of inner gratitude. We thank the Creator for the gift of our very lives. Perhaps the Creator even smiles with us.

What’s a smile worth? It’s the priceless wealth of a life lived increasingly aware of Divine Essence—the Presence of God—in each moment of our lives. And it bears the fruit of inner peace that surpasses understanding.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net




by brian j plachta on January 30th, 2020

Remember as a kid when your parent pointed an index finger at your chest, looked at you with eyes that could cut steel, and proclaimed, “You’re grounded!”

It usually meant you’d done something wrong like hitting your brother, toilet papering your neighbor’s trees, or staying out past curfew.

But, being grounded as an adult has a different meaning. It’s a good thing.

Michael Daniels, in his book, Shadow, Self, Spirit, says that groundedness refers to “a sense of being fully embodied, whole, centered and balanced in ourselves and our relationships.” It’s also a deeper connection to the authentic self. He suggests groundedness is associated “with an experience of clarity, wholeness, ‘rightness,’ and harmony."

According to Diane Raab, PhD, when you’re grounded, you’re in touch with your mental and emotional self. You’re not easily influenced by others’ opinions or actions. You shrug off life’s bumps and grinds. Raab writes, “If someone cuts [a grounded person] off in a traffic circle, they may give a shoulder shrug, and think, ‘Oh, well, they must be in a hurry.’ Chances are, they won’t become overwhelmed by, or reactive to, the incident.”

It’d be nice to be a grounded person all the time. But, that’s not realistic.

I notice when I’m not grounded, I feel like a flying squirrel jumping from one tree branch to another. I’m anxious. Overwhelmed. I feel like I’m spinning.

To get out of those lofty tree branches and get back on the ground requires two things: first, an awareness of being ungrounded; and second, creating gentle practices that reconnect us with our bodies.

God made us complete with the trinity of mind, body, and spirit. When all three are working together, we typically experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.

But often we get trapped in the mind, thinking about the future—the “what if’s”—or the past—the “how comes.” The mind then takes charge and heads straight into the flying squirrel syndrome, bouncing from one thought to another.

So how do we get out of that feeling of being ungrounded that can make us feel (and act) a little nuts?

Here’s a way. It’s called spiritual grounding.

According to an article in Discover Healing, spiritual grounding is a practice that connects your body to the earth and brings physical and emotional balance and strength. When you learn how to ground yourself, you become present to yourself and God. You integrate mind, body, and spirit as One.

Since our minds can think only one thought at a time, the quickest way to quiet the mind is to reground ourselves in our bodies.

Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century Christian mystic and theologian, called spiritual grounding “body prayer.” She wrote, The fruit and the purpose of prayer is “to be made one with God and like God in all things."

After suffering immense pain, Julian got in touch with her physical body as one pathway to connect with the Divine. She created a body prayer as a simple way to pray without words and integrate mind, body, and spirit.

Here are the four postures of Julian’s body prayer: Await, Allow, Accept, and Attend.

Await—with cupped hands extended at the waist, we stand waiting for the presence of God

Allow—reaching up with our hands extended toward the sky, we seek deeper awareness and wisdom

Accept—standing with hands held cupped to the heart, we accept ourselves and others unconditionally, and receive the insight God offers

Attend—with hands extended and palms open, we move into the world to do the work God has given us this day.

Click on this link for a short demonstration of Julian’s body prayer. https://youtu.be/_lKdXykzTXk

I use Julian’s body prayer at the beginning of my morning meditation and before I hop into bed. During the day, when I feel the flying squirrels taking over, I stop what I’m doing and practice body prayer for two or three minutes. It’s amazing how it re-grounds me and allows me to experience a calming presence.

There are many ways to find spiritual grounding through the prayer of the body. We can focus on our breathing for a few moments, plant our feet firmly on the floor to feel the energy and stability of the earth, or wash our hands and face as a way of shaking off the world’s noise. Placing our hands on our heart and feeling its warmth and gentle beating can also bring about the inner peace we seek.

This week, try a body prayer practice such as Julian’s to spiritually ground yourself. Notice what changes you experience. Find your pathway and get spiritually grounded.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net





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