brian j plachta
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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
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on May 9th, 2019

Most of us experience self-doubt, writes Debbie Ford in her book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not okay. I’m not lovable, worthy, or deserving.
We poison ourselves with self-loathing words that taint our psyches.

If we repeat the negative thoughts enough—or others slam us with them—we either come to believe their untruths or turn and run away from ourselves. These instinctive self-defense mechanisms undermine our feelings of self-worth, leading us to believe we have to be perfect to become whole.

However according to Ford, being “whole” consists of owning both the shadow and the light sides of our personalities, because they each contain their own wisdom to teach us—if we’re willing to pan for their gold.


The shadow is our growing edge, the part of us that’s fearful, selfish, prideful, or a multitude of other negative traits. It’s everything we resist or try to disown about ourselves.

The light consists of our good qualities. It’s those things we like about ourselves such as being compassionate, creative, and courageous. The light allows us to experience love not just for others, but also for ourselves.

When properly understood, the shadow and the light unite the human and divine parts of our being. They teach us wisdom and allow us to embrace our unique self-worth.

Most people are afraid to confront their shadow side because it’s the unacceptable part of our personalities. So, we often try to hide our shadow, or make it behave and go away.

But like panning for gold in a muddy river bed, when we take time to understand our whole self—both the darkness and the light—we find the happiness we’ve been looking for. We become enlightened.

The other day I was walking my dog Riley in subzero weather. The tips of my gloved fingers stung from the bitter cold. I wanted to retreat back to the warmth of my home to unthaw. But Riley wasn’t having it. He wanted to sniff every snow bank and leave his mark.
Fine for him, I thought. He’s lined with fur. I angrily snapped his leash as I grumbled, “Come on, Riley. Get going.

Riley stopped. His ears flattened. He tucked his tail beneath his legs as he looked up at me trying figure out what he’d done wrong.

My shadow side, my impatient self, had reared its ugly face again. What is my problem? I stood in the pelting snow searching for the light in my darkness.

I’m worried about everything and everyone. I let myself be overwhelmed by work, family, politics, and all the problems in our universe. I’m bent-over double with anxiety.

Remembering Ford’s invitation to ask ourselves what’s the light we’re being invited to embrace in the darkness, I realized I needed to let go of others’ problems. I needed to trust all is well—that was the gold nugget of wisdom waiting for me to discover.

In that moment I embraced my shadow self. I turned to the light within me, and whispered a prayer asking God to give me the grace of patient trust.

I then smiled at Riley as I patted his head. “I’m sorry, buddy,” I said, and we continued our journey home.

If we want to experience wholeness, we have to accept both the shadow and the light within us. Once the shadow is embraced by the light, it can be healed. When healed, it becomes love.
We let the light and the darkness within us become our teachers when we follow three simple steps of self-awareness:

Name the shadow—the negative emotion or trait we experience when we come face-to-face with our inner darkness.

Ask ourselves what is the opposite—the positive virtue—the light invites us to learn.

Introduce light into the shadow by asking the Creator for the grace to integrate into our lives the gold wisdom we’re panning for on our pathway to wholeness.

Don’t resist your shadow side
. Be as open to it as the light within.

Let them transform you as you allow the light to shine more and more in the darkness.

And let yourself be Whole.


---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

originally published in Converge Magazine.



by brian j plachta on May 2nd, 2019

On Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene saw Jesus outside the empty tomb, she was shocked. She wanted to touch him and make sure he was real. Her trembling fingers stroked his wounded feet.

Jesus drew back. “Mary, don’t cling.”

Mary was baffled. Why would Jesus tell her—one of his most faithful disciples—not to touch him? Was he rejecting her? Or did his response mean something more—both to her and to us?

When I cling to someone or something, it typically means I want to control it, put it into my conceptual box. I want to cling so I don’t lose it. I want to be as close as I can so I can understand it. I don’t want to be abandoned. I want to feel safe and good about myself.

But trying to capture God is like trying to capture the wind. God can’t be put into my box. I can’t control or fully conceptualize the Creator.

I use words of endearment like Teacher, Maker, and Divine One to draw closer to God and deepen my relationship with him. But no word or image can fully describe God.

There’s always more he wants to provide in our relationship. Deeper Mystery. Divine Wisdom. Infinite Unconditional Love beyond human understanding.

Ironically, it’s not us, but God who performs the action. God puts the moves on us because he loves us and wants to be closer to us. He desires intimacy (in-to-me-see) with you and me.

Why wouldn’t the Spirit of Love—who scripture calls the Bridegroom—want to sweep us off our feet and carry us across the threshold of life closer into Divine Union so we can experience heaven on earth? Here. Now.

There’s nothing we can do to make that Union happen or deepen. It’s God’s work in us that brings about this miraculous, unfolding relationship.

Our job is to get out of God’s way. Let the Maker have his way with us. Not cling to some magic word or image that makes us feel better about ourselves, but open our hearts so that in the emptiness, God can fill us with Divine Wholeness.


My mind doesn’t grasp that truth. Like Mary Magdalene, my first reaction is to cling.

I want to be in control and be the driving force in my relationship with God. That way, I can set the boundaries. I can determine how far and in what ways I’ll let God have his way with me.

Fortunately, God’s a patient lover. He waits for us, gently nudges us, and when we’re ready to open the door of our hearts a little wider, he comes in and reveals the depths of Unconditional Love more fully.


We can only pray for the grace—the gift—of an Open Heart.

And somehow our prayer is God’s love praying deeply within us.



—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on April 27th, 2019

Risen

We’ve entered the season of Easter in the Christian church. We’ve moved from the mia culpa of Good Friday, through the empty tomb of Holy Saturday, and, for the next fifty days, we are invited to savor the victory of unconditional love completed on Easter Sunday.

We might be tempted to view the Easter season as a mere remembrance of Jesus’ death—something that happened “back then” but isn’t happening now. But the resurrection is much more than a historical event. It’s an ongoing incarnation of God’s love in and through each of us.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection demonstrate we are continuously transformed by Divine Love. Through the reoccurring cycle of death and resurrection, we move through a pattern of order, disorder, and reorder. Day-by-day, bit-by-bit, we come out of our empty tombs into the glory of human wholeness.

Something must have happened in that tomb on Holy Saturday. As the Father and Spirit entered the cave, knelt and wept beside the cold slab of stone upon which Jesus’ beaten body lay, they experienced the brutal death of their Beloved Son.

And rather than endless mourning, the Trinity then unwrapped the bloody burial cloth, lifted Jesus’ lifeless body to their chests, held his broken flesh next to their hearts, and proclaimed, “We will bring him home. We will lift him up. And we will place his Spirit of love into every human heart so that they too may rise with him.”

The fifty-day stretch from Easter to Pentecost is designed as a time to connect with the power of resurrection, to pause and reflect on simple questions such as:

How have I changed—been resurrected?
Since last Easter, what’s different about me? 
How have I come out of my empty tomb?  How have I Risen?

Jesus’ life unfolds in an intimate way through the eyes of those closest to him in the History channel’s drama-documentary presentation of Jesus—His Life. As my wife and I watched the series, I was struck by the realization that Jesus didn’t know who he was in his early life. As he grew into adulthood, he slowly evolved as his mission unfolded. He came face-to-face with his spiritual self and ultimately accepted the role of Messiah, Master Builder for which he was created.

When his mother asked him to change water into wine at the wedding feast, Jesus told her his time had not yet come. He was uncertain if he could perform miracles—unclear if he was the Son of God.

As he stretched out of his comfort zone, he invoked Divine power and grace to transform ordinary water into extraordinary wine, foreshadowing the many other miracles he was to perform. He began to realize who he was.

Jesus didn’t play victim. In the balance between human pride and divine humility, God graced his son with the courage to embrace his human and divine natures so that at the end of his earthly life he proclaimed he was and is the Son of God, the Son of Man. From that place of self-knowledge, self-discovery, Jesus came into the fullness of himself in God, and moved from bloody death to glorious resurrection.

As I ponder Jesus’ life, I wonder, How have I Risen? How have I grown in the past year?
In meditation, I realize God invites me to let go of my poor me, life’s tough, and I’m a victim attitudes and rise into the truth of who I am—God’s Beloved.

It takes courage and grace to accept God’s unconditional love and step into who and what God says I am. My overthinking brain can’t wrap itself around this reality. It’s much easier for me to rub my nose into I’m-a-sinner and I-mess-up-a-lot as my lips kiss the cross on Good Friday.

But resurrection power is not about guilt and shame. Resurrection is about God’s unconditional love and how we—as we allow the power of Divine Love to embrace us—are transformed. We step into who we are—God’s Beloved.

That is on-going resurrection—allowing God’s grace to hold us in the balance of human pride and divine humility to receive the courage to step into who we are.
We are not the Messiah. We are also not victims. We are human beings with unique personalities who God placed on this earth to be sacred vessels to create more love in the world.

This Easter season, I pray God will continue to teach me who I am. I ask for grace to silence the unholy voices that try to rub my nose into who I am not.

Resurrection is something I cannot do on my own.  My head can’t make logical sense out of it. But, as I open my heart and allow God to reveal Divine love to and through me, I am changed, transformed.  I am able to proclaim, I believe. My heart understands. And my feet are catching up.

This Easter season, consider pondering the question, How have I Risen?


As you do, know that through God’s resurrection power, the Creator continually makes all things new.


 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on April 18th, 2019

Making decisions in life can be complicated, sometimes overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a simple test to help you make the right decision—a way you could know which of the competing options were best?

Centuries ago, Saint Ignatius gave us three simple tests to help make a life decision.


The first is a simple question:
  • Will the choice I make lead me closer to God or further away from him?
The second is more of a reflection:
  • At the end of my life, when I stand before God and explain why I made a certain decision, what will I tell him was the basis for my choice?
The third tool is a pros and cons list.
  • Make two columns on a sheet of paper and write the pros on one side and the cons on the other of a decision you’re considering. Then, add up each column to determine which one outweighs the other.

It might seem odd to use Ignatius’ tests to decide whether to ask your girlfriend to marry you, but years ago, I figured if these tests worked for him, maybe they’d work for me, too. So, as I was discerning whether to ask my girlfriend—whom I’d been dating for a year—to marry me, I pondered Ignatius’ tests.

Would marrying my girlfriend lead me closer to God? She was a faith-filled person. She believed in God, went to church regularly, and wanted to raise children in our faith tradition. Given these facts, I was certain she passed the first test.

What would I tell God was the reason I asked this lovely woman to marry me? That one was simple, too. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her so we could raise a family and share our love with each other and the world.

The pros and cons list was tougher. As I jotted down my thoughts in each column, both columns were almost equal in number. Balanced against the con of giving up the freedom of being a single guy was the pro of having someone with whom to share my days. A life filled with raising children outweighed a life of celibacy. But, one simple item on the pros side tilted the balance toward seeking my girlfriend’s hand in marriage—I loved her.

I was excited to show my bride-to-be the results. “Look, honey, you came out on the winning side of my pros and cons test.” I proudly handed her the list. She glanced at it, breathed one of those are-you-kidding-me? sighs, and then rolled her eyes. My heart sank as I realized this wasn’t the “Oh, Romeo” moment I’d hoped.

But when I got down on bended knee and gave her a heart-shaped box of candy with an engagement ring in it, she still said yes. And after thirty-five years of marriage, our unfolding love story continues.

The ancient wisdom of Saint Ignatius still applies in our modern age. It provides a time-tested approach for discerning which way to turn.

So, when you’re faced with a life decision—or a simple choice between two competing options—consider Ignatius’ three tests as a handy tool to help you walk down the path of right living.


---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

originally published in
Converge Magazine.



by brian j plachta on April 12th, 2019

The popular song by Michael W. Smith, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” echoes the timeless wisdom of Saint Augustine, who invites us to see ourselves, God, and the universe through the lens of our heart.

Could it be our heart has an eye, a lens? If it does, how do we access it? And what blocks us from heart-sight?

Our hearts contain our souls. We’re connected to God through this soul-space. It’s a sacred space within us where the Light of Christ, the Holy Spirit, dwells.

This lifeline to the Divine provides us with wisdom, guidance, and courage. It allows us to move into an awareness beyond the physical world.

We access the heart-space by becoming quiet, resting in stillness, and seeking the deeper Self created and held by Infinite Love. The landscape of our hearts has no horizon.

Our ego—which sees only the tangible physical world—is the block that prevents us from living from the heart. The ego helps us survive, but it tries to understand and control the world through the limited view of the mind. 

It’s as if the ego—with its mental clanging that rattles through our heads—says to the heart, “Step aside. I’m in control. I’ve got it all figured out.”

The heart then smiles back. “How’s that working out for you?” 

 “Not so well. I could use a hand,” the mind reluctantly responds.

When the mind and heart shake hands, the mind sinks into the heart and they become dance partners learning the steps of life in unison.

I wish to see with the soft eye of the heart that Smith and Augustine describe. I want to view life from the gaze that unites us with Infinite Love.  I wish to live from the vast landscape of the heart that has no horizon.

But my heart has no physical eye with which to see.

Somehow, in the quiet, the Divine finds me. When the cluttered clouds of my thinking-mind part and grace flows in and through me, I sense the Eye of my Heart. It’s placed by the Creator in the center of our chests.  It sees life from inside out. It experiences wisdom far beyond understanding. It forgives others for the hurts they inflict. It allows the Creator to heal and transform us.

Give me your grace, Divine Wisdom, to let go of my thinking-mind. Let the thin veil—the illusion we are separated from each other—blow back gently in the spring breeze to reveal what my heart already knows—You and I and all Creation are One in Infinite Love.

Open the eyes of my heart.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net

by brian j plachta on April 6th, 2019


Many search for the key to unlock inner peace, wholeness, and balance. We look for a way to quiet the mind and re-ground ourselves.

Maybe science has one answer to the question, “How do I find inner peace?”

Herbert Benson, MD, well known for three decades of research into the health effects of meditation, is the founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

He concludes the relaxation response from meditation slows our metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as the body receives the message to relax.

Studies of Buddhist monks who meditate daily have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in the brain and increases attention span, memory, learning, and the ability to focus and live in the present moment.

Is science correct? Could it be that simple?  Is daily meditation the key that unlocks the mind, body, and spirit connection to inner peace?

Jesus seemed to think so.

When the apostles asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus said, “Go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matt 6:6).

Jesus pointed to the fact that sitting in quiet meditation with God daily rewards us with not only the scientific benefits of meditation, but also deepens our relationship with God as we receive affirmation and gentle guidance from the Creator.

Christ lived the words he preached. He sat alone with his Father daily. There he gained direction and understanding from God. And when the demands of healing and preaching overwhelmed him, he stole away into the quiet to recharge and reconnect.

  Thomas Merton and Father Thomas Keating made it their life-long mission to teach meditation/contemplation because they believed this daily practice instills inner peace and wholeness. However, the Western world threw the practice out with the Enlightenment.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is up to something now—inviting us to return to the ancient practice of meditation to breathe new life into our yearning hearts.

It’s all about relationship.

There are no right or wrong ways to practice meditation/contemplation. It’s simply spending alone time with God in a quiet space.

Through regular meditation our relationship with the Creator grows. We discover how Infinite Love is moving in our lives, and how we respond to that movement. As Richard Hauser, SJ, wrote, we learn how to live our lives, Moving in the Spirit.

My wife teases she’ll write on my tombstone, “Quiet Time Solves Everything.” I’d high-five her if she did, because I’ve come to believe that daily meditation—what I call Quiet Time—is where we find ourselves in God—where we learn to live and love. It’s a safe-space of comfort and guidance  where we go to be alone with the Source of our Being.  I don’t understand why or how it works. But Jesus did, and invites us to try it.

I’ve created a You Tube Website with several short meditation videos. Take a peek at them to jumpstart your meditation practice. The Pray as You Go website is also a great tool for launching daily meditation.

As you enter your Quiet Time, consider what Mother Teresa said about her meditation practice, “I look at God. God looks at me. And we are very happen.”


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on March 28th, 2019

 
(discover the three Cs of letting go)
 
My buddy’s marriage is on the rocks. After raising four children and celebrating thirty years of marriage, he and his wife debate whether they should stay or go.
 
Since their children have finished college and left home, the kid-buffer that used to mask the tensions in their marriage is gone. Now, he and his wife are tackling the underlying resentments, flaws, and betrayals that clog a relationship.
 
I want to fix my buddy. Having scored a “one” on the Enneagram—which designates me as a “reformer”—I want to jump in and coach him through the practical steps he and his wife need to survive this difficult time. Morning meditation, spiritual direction, and counseling—those are the tools my wife and I added to our marriage toolbox when we hit the empty-nester zone.  
 
But my buddy won’t take my advice, or at least not as quickly as I wish. I get impatient and frustrated. “For God’s sake,” I want to shout, “insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
 
In my angst, I’m discovering a life-lesson, a piece of wisdom the Creator invites me to integrate into my life. I often resist it, but the lesson is to let go; to accept life on life’s terms; to let empathy be a grace, not a trap.  
 
Empathy is a gift we receive from the Holy Spirit. It’s understanding what another person is feeling—seeing the world through his or her eyes. It goes beyond compassion, since with empathy we often physically and emotionally experience the other’s pain.
 
Empathy becomes a trap when we fail to distinguish between others’ emotions and our own. It becomes unbalanced when we think we must solve their issues so we can feel right about ourselves. Trapped by empathy, we become desperate to fix the situation. We unknowingly take on the role of God.
 
As I continue to learn the distinction between the gift of empathy and its trap, my mentor introduced me to the 3 Cs:
 
  • I didn’t cause it. 
  • I can’t control it. 
  • I can’t cure it. 
 
I can, however, be the presence of Christ’s love
. This is the grace of Holy Detachment that Saint Ignatius taught.
 
I’m learning to use the 3 Cs as a self-check. They’re a practical path out of my obsessive, ego-based need to fix others.
 
I didn’t cause my buddy’s marital problems. And I can’t control what goes on within the walls of their home. Perhaps their struggle is a life-experience they need to go through so they can both grow. Most important, only they can cure their issues.
 
As I practice walking alongside my friend in a more balanced way, he and I exchange texts throughout the day. I affirm and encourage him. We work out at the gym and go for a beer occasionally. I’m learning to be patient and let life unfold.
 
I hope my friend’s marriage survives. I don’t know how or if it will. I do know his journey helped me discover the three Cs—didn’t cause it; can’t control it; can’t cure it.
 
They’re part of a life-lesson I’m going to need to work on—for the rest of my life.
 
 
 
—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
 
Originally published in Converge Magazine

by brian j plachta on March 22nd, 2019


The National Science Foundation reports the average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative, and 95% are the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

Our fleeting thoughts often feel like a cage of chattering monkeys have taken up residence in our heads.

Scattered thoughts like:

Did I feed the dog before I left? Maybe I’d better pick something up for dinner. Oh, look, a cute little bunny on the side of the road. Did I just miss my exit? I can’t do anything right. Does that pain in my stomach mean I have cancer?

It seems as if the monkeys’ chatter is non-stop. Sometimes they carry on their noisy din deep into the night.

So, how do we feed our monkey-minds some bananas to quiet them down?

Benedictine Monk Brother David Steindl-Rast teaches that gratitude is the pathway. We can experience every day as a grateful day if we open our hearts and view our lives through the lens of gratefulness.
 
Gratitude calms our minds. It cultivates happiness as we stop to remember each moment is a precious gift—one we’ve been given, and will never have the chance to re-live.

Gratitude invites us to pause, take a deep breath, and notice what we’re thankful for in this moment.

Instead of the rampant racket that often rattles through our brains, what if we refocused our thoughts on such things as:

I have people who love me, a warm house, and food.  My heart is amazing—it pumps nourishing blood throughout my body without me having to tend to it. I am safe in this moment. 

 
Taking a moment to list what we’re grateful for grounds us in the Present Moment. It temporarily halts the monkey-chatter.

Gratitude allows us to befriend the monkeys. It’s like singing a lullaby to them and tucking them into bed at the end of the day. As we pull the warm blanket of gratitude over our noisy chimps, they close their eyes, and sigh a cleansing ahhh. When the monkeys starting chattering again, we can stop and focus on the goodness in our lives as we pull the blanket of gratitude back over our monkey-minds. The gift of gratitude then re-grounds and refocuses us.

Consider practicing gratitude this week. When the monkeys take up residence and start their non-stop babble, take a moment to pause and list five things you’re grateful for. Then rest in the blanket of gratitude.

Let gratitude ground you.

—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on March 10th, 2019

My mother had a favorite picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that hung in our foyer. You couldn’t miss it when you entered the house.

Long, wavy brown hair cascaded down Jesus’ shoulders. His slate-blue eyes stared straight through me, making me feel like I’d just been caught doing something naughty.
A large, blood-red heart burst from the middle of his chest. Above the heart flickered a yellow flame.

His index finger, resting on his stomach, pointed upward, directing the eye toward Jesus’ flaming heart.

There was something about that finger pointing to his heart that grabbed my attention as a child.

My mom often prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with great devotion.

But for me, the icon hanging in our foyer was a mystery. Surely Jesus pointed to his heart for a reason, but why?

As an adult, I stumbled upon the research of the Heart Math Institute. 

The scientists at the Institute believe that the heart—not the brain—is our operating system. It’s the hard drive that runs our human body, and it has a mind all its own.

When we’re anxious or afraid, the heartmind signals the brain to quiet us by releasing oxytocin, the calming hormone. When we need an extra boost of energy to face danger, the heart tells the brain to release adrenaline to supercharge our bodies with strength.

The Heart Math Institute reports that since the Enlightenment, with its “I think, therefore I am” philosophy, we’ve been falsely led to believe that our minds operate our human systems. Our minds, however, seek direction and guidance from our hearts, and the two operate as a team.

Some faith traditions teach that the heart is the location of our soul. There’s a yellow flame behind our heart. In the Christian tradition, we call that flame the Holy Spirit. Native Americans call it the Great Spirit.

Regardless of what we call the flame, there’s a universal belief that we receive insight and wisdom from God through our heartspace. It’s the umbilical cord that connects us with the Divine.

The heart, therefore, has intuitive power. It acquires wisdom and understanding through deep listening, the type that occurs in prayer, meditation, and contemplation. When we become quiet and focus on opening our hearts, we access the heartspace. We plug into the life-line that connects us with our Source so we can gain affirmation and guidance from the Creator.

It’s as if the mind says to the heart, “Hey, I could use some help here.” And the heart responds, “I thought you’d never ask.”

As I pondered this heart-mind connection, it dawned on me that maybe that’s why Jesus points to his heart in that picture. He’s telling us we all have sacred hearts just like he does. And while it’s great to worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we need to go beyond the icon and understand our sacred hearts are our connection to the Creator, the link that unites mind, body, and spirit.

Here’s a simple practice I found that helps me connect my mind with my heart.


Find a quiet space to sit and relax. Close your eyes. Take your hand and place it on your forehead. Slowly brush your hand downward across your eyes, nose, mouth, and throat until it rests on your heart.

Feel the warmth of your heart. Notice the energy that emanates from it. That energy is Divine Love. Savor it for a moment.

Next, draw your attention to your heartbeat. Feel the tick-tick of your heart pumping gently in your chest. Let its rhythm calm you, connect you, as you experience its Presence.

You can return to this heartmind practice throughout the day to connect with your sacred heart. In doing so, see if you gain the ability to relax, receive wisdom, and reunite with the Source of your Being as you discover the sacred heart of you.


---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
originally published in Converge Magazine. (convergemagazine.com).







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