Imagine sitting on an airplane soaring high above the clouds. Suddenly, the plane shakes. The overhead lights flicker. The captain announces the plane is losing cabin pressure.
Your lungs gasp for air. As oxygen masks drop from the panel above, you put on the mask. Relieved, you breathe in life-giving oxygen.
Life can be like that turbulent plane ride. The turmoil of daily living can leave us shaken, anxious, shallow of breath. Confused.
The good news? Our hearts have a built-in oxygen mask. When we were born, God breathed the breath of life—God’s Spirit—into our bodies. With the first breath we inhaled, God placed the Divine Spirit of Love and Wisdom into our hearts to give us inner guidance. And every breath we take is a direct connection with our lifeline to God, our spiritual oxygen mask.
Twenty-five years ago, I hit a turbulent patch of life. The demands of my career, raising four children, and balancing family and friends, overwhelmed me. I shared my anxiety and fears with a mentor. He asked me if I spent time each day in meditation. I told him I prayed—sometimes—but although I believed in God, I didn’t feel connected with him.
My mentor told me to get up early and spend at least twenty minutes in quiet meditation each day to talk with and listen to God. Open my heart and simply be present to myself and the Creator. That connection, that time spent being still, he said, was my oxygen mask, my lifeline to God.
Starting the next morning, I did as he said. I sat still for twenty minutes. I breathed in and out, aware of God’s love and guidance.
Since then, I’ve put on my oxygen mask daily. And while life still has its ups and downs, at least I know I have a place to reconnect with the inner wisdom the Creator offers. Because of that deepening connection, I feel safe. Loved.
In the sixteenth century during the height of the church’s Inquisition, when turmoil, fixation on rules, and finger-pointing caused many to lose faith, Saint Teresa of Avila rose up and called the church to return to its ancient tradition of contemplation. The daily practice of setting aside time for solitude, silence, and interior prayer, she proclaimed, would bring about inner peace, allow each person to experience God directly, and cultivate the connection between each soul and the God of love, whom she called the Beloved.
Similarly, in the 1960s, as the postmodern church and world spun aimlessly, Trappist monk Thomas Merton reintroduced contemplation to the Western world. He proclaimed that daily meditation was and is the Holy Spirit’s invitation for inner connection, universal growth, and transformation. Reclaiming that contemplative tradition, he wrote, is key.
I wonder if Saint Teresa, Thomas Merton, and my mentor are onto something magical. Simple. As we face a time of disorder both personally and within the world, could the Holy Spirit once again be inviting us to put on our spiritual oxygen masks?
What would the world look like if each of us—individuals, politicians, church leaders, media and celebrity elites—took twenty minutes daily to connect with the inner wisdom and guidance of our Higher Power? Would we stop before we posted a nasty remark on Facebook? Would we pray for wisdom instead of pointing fingers? Would the same Spirit that created each of us in the Creator’s image and likeness become the oxygen mask we all need to live God’s dream—that the Universe live in love and harmony?
Instead of throwing up hands in dismay and resisting, let’s accept the Holy Spirit’s invitation of love. Starting today, what if we each set aside twenty minutes daily to sit quietly, open our hearts, and put on our spiritual oxygen masks? Let’s see how the Spirit of Divine Love and Wisdom within us makes everything new. Who’s in?
—brian j plachta
In this fast-paced, often overwhelming world, it’s important to develop life-giving practices that teach us how to slow down and care for ourselves. Taking time to focus on our breath—both during quiet times of meditation and throughout the day—restores our balance and inner peace.