brian j plachta
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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).



by brian j plachta on March 7th, 2019

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.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
originally published in Converge Magazine





by brian j plachta on March 1st, 2019

Work demands, loved one’s needs, household chores. Finding balance amidst these daily responsibilities can be hard. We’re often overwhelmed by the people and things tugging at us.

Unless we find a viable way to navigate through the everyday tasks we’re called to perform, our energy tanks soon empty. We become exhausted, numb, resentful.

A powerful way to keep our life balanced is to incorporate the Rhythm of Life introduced by Saint Benedict in the fourth century.

Benedict suggested we view our lives as containing four necessary components—solitude, spiritual reading, community, and action. He created the Rhythm of Life as a template for the monks who lived in his Benedictine monasteries. In our modern age, many are rediscovering Benedict’s wisdom to infuse more balance and inner peace into their lives.

Imagine a submarine with four water tanks. Each tank needs to be properly filled so the submarine operates correctly. If one tank is empty or has too much water in it, the submarine becomes topsy-turvy. It malfunctions. If each tank has the correct level of water, the submarine flows. It works the way it’s designed.

In the same way, our lives have four necessary components.

Solitude. We need daily solitude to rest, reconnect with our hearts, and find wisdom in the silence to guide us. Spending twenty minutes in meditation at the beginning of each day centers us. The silence often contains answers. It’s a place to rest and connect with God, just as Jesus did during his earthly life.

Spiritual Reading. Books contain gems of insights that can bless our lives. When we read the stories of others who’ve sought and found balance on the spiritual path, their words can inspire us, teach us, and lead us to deeper understanding. A good friend makes it a practice to read inspirational books for thirty minutes each night before he goes to bed. During the day, he chews on the authors’ words and invitations. The snippets of wisdom offered by those books seep into his life.

Community.  Surrounding ourselves with people who inspire us to grow in mind, body, and spirit is an important part of leading healthy lives. Our spouses, life partners, and spiritual friends form a circle of trust who mirror back to us who we are and how we’re growing. Our spiritual directors, teachers, and mentors serve as trail guides to help us navigate the next steps on our life’s journey. Assessing who we have or might need to add to our community is an important part of finding balance in our lives.

Action.  Our lives are enriched by the unique talents with which we’ve been gifted to make the world a better place. When we use those gifts to enhance the lives of others, we find purpose and happiness. Taking a spiritual gifts inventory can help identify our top gifts, and then discern how we can use those gifts in a way that’s life-giving for ourselves and others. As we move through the changing seasons of our lives, we might find using one gift fits that season. When we put that gift into use, we find deeper fulfillment as we grace the lives of others who reap the wisdom we’ve gained over the years.

Take some time this week to reflect on the four components of Benedict’s Rhythm of Life—
  • Solitude
  • Spiritual Reading
  • Community
  • Action.
Which ones in your life are balanced? Which are too full or empty? What steps can you take to find life’s balance—to discover a rhythm of life that’s life-giving for you and for others?

—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on February 24th, 2019

A friend recently told me he doesn’t believe in God anymore. At least, he no longer believes in a Christian God.

“Why?”  I asked.

“I can’t believe the Creator of the Universe got angry at humans for eating an apple, and to get even, he sent his son to die and make things right. The Christian God seems mean and petty. You’re telling me he used his son to clean up our messes—to ‘atone’ for our shortcomings with a bloodstained sacrifice? That kind of God makes me feel guilty and ashamed.”

My friend’s doubts are similar to those raised by many others throughout history. During the first millennium, Christians struggled with related questions. Why did God send Jesus, and how come he had to die on the cross?

St. Anselm and John Duns Scotus proposed two answers.

St. Anselm claimed Jesus died to pay a debt for our sins. He contended Jesus was a human sacrifice consistent with the Jewish practice of offering sacrificial lambs to atone for wrongdoings. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we were reconciled with God.

Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus offered a different theory. He maintained that Jesus’ death on the cross was God’s self-revelation of infinite, unconditional love. Scotus believed that even if humans had not sinned, God still would’ve sent his son to demonstrate how much he loves us and to invite us to embody that love through our lives.

According to Scotus, it was as if God said, “I’m going to become human to let you know you are good. And you can do anything to me, even spit at me, crown my head with thorns, and kill me, and I’ll still love you—unconditionally. I’ll even go one step further by placing my Spirit of love and wisdom into each person’s heart.”

Anselm’s atonement theory became the doctrine adopted by a majority of Christians. Scotus’ unconditional love theory was not rejected, but instead referred to as the minority or alternative doctrine.

I grew up with Anselm’s theory. The good nuns at my grade school taught that God so loved the world he sent his only son that we might have eternal life. Those words comforted me. They brought about a sense of gratitude and humility. I was awed by Jesus’ willingness to save me by his life and death.

But, my humility soon morphed into guilt when I was told I was flawed, broken, and unworthy. I felt I could never measure up to what God expected. I developed a shadow self, believing God was always disappointed in me.

As I grew older, however, a wise teacher introduced me to Scotus’ view of unconditional love.
 
My understanding of God expanded. I enjoyed the freedom to let God love me as I am, where I am. I opened my heart to God’s unconditional love, allowing Divine Compassion to embrace and shape me so I could become a vessel of love flowing in and through me, teaching me how to love unconditionally like Jesus did.

Over time, I dumped some of my guilt. My concept of God as an angry judge shifted to that of God as a loving father.

I suppose we can debate whose theory—Anselm or Scotus’—was right.  But, that debate only sends us into our heads for an intellectual battle. It doesn’t help deepen our relationship with God.

I wonder if, instead of endless debates, we took the best of Anselm and Scotus’ theories and reconciled them with the three simple truths they point to:


Humility.  Humans need Divine Presence to be complete. God’s willingness to place his son on earth is a sign and symbol of the intersection between Divine and human hearts. And when we mess up, God’s there, willing to help us grow—if we reach out to him.

Unconditional Love. God reveals his true nature as that of unconditional love through Jesus’ life. We need not fear or run from God. He loves us no matter what, because that’s who God is—love.

Sacred Vessels. We are created to receive and embody Christ’s love—to be the sacred vessels through which God infuses the world with creative love. As we open our hearts to Divine Compassion, we co-create with God. Human and Divine become One.

While healthy remorse for our shortcomings is an important part of humility, an overemphasis on guilt rubs our noses in shame and leads us to walk away in fear.

What if we dropped the guilt, embraced our humble need for God’s Divine Presence in our lives, saw God as he is—unconditional love—and allowed him to mold and shape us into the sacred vessels we are?

Maybe it’s time we dump the guilt, and live in love as God intended.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on February 14th, 2019

When I was in grade school, my religion teacher told me that everything I do should be done for the glory of God. That sounded strange. Why would God need me to glorify him?
Is the Creator of the universe insecure? Is he incomplete if I don’t honor him? Does he sulk when I forget to praise him?

I pondered. Is God an egomaniac?

Is he a cranky old man with a white beard ready to lash out at me when I fail to give him the glory for helping me find my lost Tonka truck? Is he a superhero with an inferiority complex likely to throw lightning bolts at me if I fail to worship him? Worse yet, is he an angry God who’s going to throw me into hell because I stole that piece of bubblegum?
These childhood images of God shook me with fear. I wasn’t sure I could trust him because he seemed as moody as my religion teacher.


God is Already Complete


As I grew older, however, I learned I had God all wrong. God is love. He doesn’t need me to give him glory, because he’s already complete regardless of whether I praise him.
Rather, giving God glory helps me remember God and I are in this thing called life together. I’m the human and he’s the divine. We’re a team. And when God and I work together, when I listen and follow his guidance, we co-create and multiply love in the world. But when I try and do things on my own without divine input, I usually make mistakes, sometimes big ones that hurt myself and others.

Googling Glory


When I Googled the word “glory” the other day, I came across this definition in the Urban Dictionary:

“He is the most beautiful structure you could ever lay your eyes on. He is someone that wants to love and protect anything that really means a lot to him. He loves you at your best and also at your worst. He loves you enough to love you more than he loves himself. He is your king and you should try your hardest to keep this unique figure. He is not an everyday human being.”

I’m not sure if the writer at Urban Dictionary intended to describe God and why it’s important to keep God in our lives, but it seemed to me that this definition of glory is a great description of the Creator. The Creator is the source of our being. He loves us at our best and our worst. He wants to love and protect us because we’re a big deal to him. And when we give glory to God, God doesn’t change—we do. We remember we’re on the same team.

God Doesn’t Need Glory

So, do I still believe God is an egomaniac? No. I think my childhood image of God was all wrong.

And now that I’m learning that God is the source of unconditional love and wisdom, I’m hoping to hang out with him more, because the more I do, the more things seem to go right in my world.

So, I’m giving God the thanks and the glory not because he needs it, but rather because I do, so I can connect more deeply with my inner self and the God who’s passionately in love with us.

---brian j plachta
brianplachta.net
originally published in Converge Magazine



by brian j plachta on February 7th, 2019


Psychologists believe there are two basic emotions humans experience—love and fear. All others fit underneath these tidy categories.

Driving through a winter snowstorm, I’m afraid other drivers might not stop and slide into me. My fear grips the steering wheel.

Sitting in the quiet at dawn with a cup of steamy coffee in my hands and my dog snoring at my feet, I am warmed by peace, comfort, and love.

When we become aware of which emotion—love or fear—we experience throughout the day, we’re then be able to center ourselves, perhaps flip our mindset from fear into love by a mere change in perspective.


As I maneuver my Jeep through icy winter streets, I shift from fear of other drivers to gratitude that I’m safe. I have a warm car, a loving family, a nice job. Despite the icy road conditions, my life is good. By refocusing my thoughts, I sigh the fear away.

When we face a life challenge or difficulty in a relationship, we often get trapped with fear by focusing on the “what ifs.” What if I fail? What if he or she leaves me?  What if others see my flaws?

During the Great Depression, then President Franklin Roosevelt told the nation the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. He reminded Americans that if our fear is strong enough, it can immobilize us and leave us paralyzed.

For many of us, the only thing we have to fear is success. We’ve been long told we’re bad, we’re flawed. Even many of our faith traditions rub our noses in our imperfections—our sins. And while that might gift us with a good dose of humility, the “I’m bad and flawed” approach to life can often trap us with doubt about ourselves—another aspect of fear.

What if, instead, we focused on love and success? Would we then be able to change the negative tapes in our heads to a more truthful perspective, such as I’m a good person. I’m not perfect. I am, however, perfectly human. And when I set my mind to working out a troubled relationship or challenge by taking meaningful action steps, eventually life unfolds and things get better.
 

Don Clifton, the father of strengths psychology and the inventor of the Strength Finders assessment, said that by focusing on our strengths, not our weaknesses, we put our energy into developing our unique talents. We shift our attention away from fear and failure to success and love.

Clifton was a pioneer. His wisdom echoes the 12-Step motto, “If I focus on the problem, the problem increases. If I focus on the solution, the solution increases.”

For the next week, notice the inner shift between love and fear within yourself. When you fill with fear, name it, and then let it go by refocusing on what’s good about you, your life, and your ability to succeed with earnest effort.  When you experience love, receive it as a gift, and lift it up to the Creator with gratitude.


Choose love, not fear.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net



by brian j plachta on February 1st, 2019

We can ascribe several meanings to Jesus’ words, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”

Some people take the words literally and walk through city streets carrying a wooden cross—usually at Easter—to replicate how much Christ suffered for us. It’s a nice gesture, but a little too theatrical for me.

For others, the words sound like a price too high to pay to enter the Christ-club. If the initiation dues are imitating the suffering and messy death of Jesus, I’ll pass, they say. Maybe I’ll join a different club like the its-all-about-me-and-my-pleasure country club.

Perhaps a third way to look at Jesus’ words is to view them as pointing to several universal truths we’re invited to understand and integrate into our lives.

The first is that suffering is a part of life
. Picking up our cross allows us to persevere through our human messiness. Life has ups and downs, pleasure and pain. And we’re invited to accept the good times and the tough times as part of our human experience. Maybe Jesus is pointing to the universal truth that suffering is a necessary part of our earthly lives. It’s how we gain wisdom and grow. It’s how we learn to love unconditionally.

The second truth is there’s a pathway out of suffering. Jesus invites us to follow him by noticing how he endured human suffering.

He embraced it. He didn’t run from it or blame others. He didn’t play the victim card.
Instead, Jesus hit suffering head on, even telling his Dad in the Garden of Gethsemane, “I don’t want to do this.” To embrace suffering in his life, Jesus sat in his Father’s presence daily. When his life got rough, he lamented—not whined—with his Dad about the pain he was experiencing.

He didn’t stay stuck in his pain. After resting in his Father’s Divine arms each day, he let God comfort him and provide him with the inner strength to go out into the world and practice unconditional love.

The third truth about picking up our cross is that unconditional love is the way out of suffering. It’s the key that unlocks cold hearts. Jesus summed it up in one short sentence—love yourself, love God, love others.

Several years ago, our bedroom telephone rang at 3 a.m. startling my wife and I out of a deep sleep. It was our son on the phone. He and some friends were leaving a party when three men jumped them and robbed them at gunpoint.

As the gunman held a pistol to our son’s forehead, our son memorized the license plate number of the perpetrator’s car. After taking his wallet, the gunman freed our son and his friends. They quickly called 911, and within the hour, the police had arrested the suspects.

At the arraignment, the gunman stood in shackles in the courtroom. He was angry and mouthed off to the judge as he pleaded not guilty.

My heart raged within me. My faced tightened with a cold harsh sneer as I came to grips with the reality that our son’s life could have ended at this man’s hands.

The next morning during my meditation time, I brought my lament to God. I first thanked him for sparing my son’s life.

But, I then buried my head in tears as I told God how much it hurt to experience such a deep bitterness toward the man who almost took our son’s life. God I despised that man. I wanted revenge—justice for robbing our son of his innocence, and keeping him up at night with frequent nightmares.

As I cried, I felt the Creator hold me. Tears washed away some of my anger, and I heard a Divine whisper, “I love all of you—-your son, the gunman, and you. I know how you feel to have almost lost your son. I lost mine on the cross.”

Love. Forgiveness. Compassion and empathy—those are the pathways out of suffering, I realized. Gradually, I opened my heart to forgive the gunman as God continues to teach me how to love my enemies. The Creator’s Wisdom reminds me time and time again that suffering is a necessary part of being human because it teaches us how to love unconditionally in the midst of our pain.

Is Jesus kidding when he invites us to pick up our cross and follow him? I don’t think so. I think he’s serious because he showed us how to do it. He taught us by example that by loving God, loving ourselves, and loving others, we pick up our cross and follow him each day.

Regardless of whether we allow God into our lives, we will have suffering and difficulties. God does not cause that suffering or those difficulties. They’re part of the human experience. But, if we allow God into our lives, he helps us make it through all the craziness this world throws at us. We have someone we can rely on to help us along the way.

And when we stumble as we carry our cross like Jesus did, God’s right there to pick us up and get us back onto the pathway of unconditional love.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net


by brian j plachta on January 25th, 2019

If you’re looking to establish a new daily mediation practice or reenergize your current practice, you might look for ways to connect more deeply with yourself and the Creator. “What do I ‘do’ in my quiet time?” you might ask.
 
Guided meditation is creative tool you might consider. It’s an imaginative process that allows you to become a participant as you read or listen to a short scripture or reflection.
 
Using one of the Gospel stories for example, you might put yourself in the scene and imagine you’re one of the people in the tale as it unfolds. This type of guided meditation allows you to experience the story with greater depth and empathy.  
 
Here’s a scripture from a scene in the Last Supper you might meditate upon:
 
“And then the one whom Jesus loved dearly, rested his head on Jesus’ shoulder.”
 
Notice there are at least three people in the scene:
 
  • Jesus; 
  • the one whom Jesus loved dearly—the Beloved; and
  • a bystander or the other disciples.
 
Read the above scripture passage two or three times as you sink into the invitations below. If you’d like, you can listen to the audio version on You Tube.
 

Guided Meditation:
 
  • Find a quiet place to sit. 
  • Close your eyes. 
  • Relax your shoulders, your face, your hands.
  • Take three deep breaths. 
  • Imagine you’re one person in the scene—the Beloved, a disciple-bystander, or Jesus.
  • Who are you in the scene?
  • What does the room look like?
  • What do you smell?
  • What do you see?
  • Notice the Beloved and Jesus reclining next to each other. 
  • What are they wearing?
  • What’s the color of their eyes, the color of their hair?
  • What do you experience when the Beloved rests his head on Jesus’ shoulder?
  • Can you feel the touch of their skin?
  • Can you hear their hearts beat?
  • What emotions stir in you?
  • What do you feel?
  • Are any words exchanged?
 
  • Perhaps the Beloved says, “No, you can’t go let them put you to death. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not fair. You’ve given so much of yourself over these past three years. Let’s run and escape.” 
 
Jesus might whisper, “Shhh. It’s okay. Of course, it isn’t fair. I don’t fully understand either, but I hear the quiet voice of my Father telling me this is the way it has to be, how my life needs to unfold. He’s asked me to reveal his unconditional love through the painful death I’ll undergo. I don’t want to do it. I’m not sure I’m man enough. But my Divine Father will give me the courage I need.”
 
Jesus stares into the Beloved eyes.  “Can I ask you one thing?”
 
“What, anything?” the Beloved responds.
 
“Can you be there?”
 
“Where?
 
“At the foot of the cross. And when I gaze into your eyes, can you believe in the depths of your soul how much I love you?”
 
——————————-
 
Sit for several minutes and savor what you experienced. Let your imagination wander as you sink deeper into the on-going love affair between God and you.
 
 
 
—brian j plachta
 brianplachta.net



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


by brian j plachta on January 18th, 2019


Jesus’ last words on the cross before he died were, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit.” These eloquent words are ones we often marvel at, wonder about, or wish we could imitate.

But, my guess is Jesus wasn’t mouthing these words as an intellectual concept. He wasn’t quoting Jewish scripture to make the last scene of his life a great Broadway script so we could reflect on it at the annual Easter play.

Rather, Jesus directly experienced these words in his mind, body, and spirit. They expressed the love pouring in and out of his heart. His humanity connected deeply with the Divinity of the Father. And he pointed us to the pathway of how we too can join our human lives with Divine Power.

If you think about the cross, notice there are two dimensions to it.

There’s the horizontal plank, which symbolizes our humanity. We interact with other people and events in the ordinary experience of day-to-day life. We go about our tasks as we practice being human.

There’s also the vertical plank, which represents the Divine. The cross’ upright log invites us to a deeper dimension of being. It reaches upward toward the sky as it points to an aspect of life beyond our intellectual grasp. It’s the supercharged link with the Divine Flow that fills us with Wisdom, Guidance, and Compassion for ourselves and others.

When the two wooden beams of the cross—the human and divine—intersect in the middle, they fit snugly like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They complete the puzzle of our lives.


Perhaps Jesus’s words, “Into your hands I commend my Spirit,” were his way of fitting his human experience of writhing in pain on the cross with his need for the Father to reach into his heart and fill him with Divine Power, so God’s unconditional love would prevail.

Jesus wasn’t waving a surrender flag with his words. Rather, he recognized he couldn’t suffer through his human experience without Divine Power. He commended his Spirit to God asking his Father to fill him with courage and power so he could love unconditionally. And he invites us to follow his example, so we too can fit together the human and divine planks of our lives.

So, how do we do it?  How do we connect our human spirits with the Divine? 


The Buddhist tradition reminds us that it’s a practice. We don’t always get it right, but through daily awareness and by adopting new life-giving habits, we integrate our human and divine experiences.

Some practical ways might be to begin the morning with quiet meditation as Jesus did. In solitude, we bring our human hearts to God and ask him to unite his Divine power and wisdom with our lives. We create space for God, so he can touch and inspire our human hearts. We tap into the well of Divine Power.

We can also talk with and listen to God throughout the day. Two days ago, a friend sent me a nasty email. I seethed with anger. Typically, my human spirit would have instantly shot back an equally nasty email—and the cyberspace war would have begun.

Instead, I looked up to the sky and lamented out loud to God, shouting, “My friend makes me so mad!” as I slammed my car door. And then, my Divine Spirit clicked in as I asked, “God, how should I respond?”

Eventually, I sensed the familiar whisper in my heart inviting me to be patient and give my friend a phone call instead of a nastygram. Trusting it was the Divine Spirit guiding my heart, I said a help-me-God prayer and called my friend. Over the phone we worked through the issues, got to a deeper understanding, and both of us grew—as did our relationship.

Another way to connect with the Divine is to use a mantra to pull ourselves back to an awareness of the Present Moment. We might use a simple phrase such as “I commend my Spirit to love” or “Breathing in, I connect my mind, body, and Spirit. Breathing out, I know the Spirit lives in me.”

Whatever words we choose, using a mantra to reconnect with our Spirits is a time-tested way of allowing the wooden logs of our human and Divine experiences to cross so we can live in the power of unconditional love.

You can also place your index fingers next to each other in the form of a cross. This simple act reminds us it’s the intersection of the human and divine parts of our being that make us whole.

Try one of the above practices for the next seven days. See if you experience deeper wholeness and balance as you intentionally connect your human spirit with the Divine.


—brian j plachta
brianplachta.net







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