Exciting Changes at Calm Chicago


Spring is on the Way

Hi everybody! Winter is almost over and spring is on its way. Here in Chicago we just dodged a big storm, a fact for which, I confess, I am extremely grateful. As spring gets closer, all that healing energy which has been storing up all winter is getting ready to shake things loose, so get ready! I am definitely feeling it here and want to share some of what’s up with all of you.

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Change Can Feel Wonky

Have you ever felt really attached to something just because this was the way you had been doing things for a long time?

Have you felt reluctant to change just because the habitual energy of whatever, felt so strong, that you felt like totally overwhelmed and unsure how to even begin to make change?

Me too!

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I Can Relate

I remember when I first thought up the name Calm Chicago. I couldn’t believe it when I looked it up on Dotster and the domain name was actually available! I felt a little smarter and more creative than usual. Like some kind of branding genius!

At the time, it was exactly what felt right. I had set my sights and intention really on helping people locally feel less stressed by sharing meditation, tai chi and qigong with them.

And it all felt very local. Even though we opened our doors in 2008, I still didn’t grasp fully what the internet was going to make possible in terms of engaging with folks from all over the planet.

But then, the website started getting hits from all over the globe. Literally. And I was like What? That’s crazy and amazing! And then, I started getting clients from far away places who wanted to work together over Skype or the phone or something like that.

Now, here we are in 2016, just eight years after opening, and with no advertising budget or anything, and Calm Chicago feels perhaps a little provincial. I think that I’ve been feeling the pull to change the name for about a year honestly. I’ve spent hours, days brainstorming, trying to come up with the perfect name that would somehow magically encapsulate everything I do now and might possibly do in the future. But nothing felt quite right. So I delayed…and delayed.

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Reclaiming My Fundamental Nature

In the middle of all this, I went through a real spiritual crisis. I stopped writing any fiction at all, stopped reading any fiction at all. This after spending my entire life wanting nothing more than to be a writer. After going into major debt to attend Columbia College Chicago and get my MFA in Creative Writing. I felt like all the joy was gradually and surely being sucked out of my life. Clearly something was amiss.

Suffice it to say this was a very dark period in my life. Of course, this taught me a great deal and I’m still sorting it out and recovering. But let’s just say this. My abandonment of my writing self was based on a couple of key misunderstandings:

  1. I thought I had to give up stories to be a good spiritual practitioner. (I didn’t. Duh)
  2. I was operating on years of habit energy that didn’t know how to be in the middle. I’ve been an all or nothing girl pretty much all my life. Think border collie. (Waking up has been a lot about modulating that sweet dog!)

Fortunately, I had the great grace to encounter some supremely wonderful teachers who helped me by throwing out the life line of compassion, particularly of self compassion. Tara BrachDani Shapiro and Scott Dinsmore and his wife Chelsea at Live Your Legend. I’ve also been fortunate to read books by other teachers and writers whose work has been saving my ass for the last year or so and I thank God for them. (Cheryl Strayed, Jack Kornfield, Megan Steilstra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mary Oliver, Mary Karr and more. Later, I’ll create a page with all the books which I’ve been reading which have been so essential to me because maybe they will be good for you too.)

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Taking Action and a Name Change

All the good things I tried to do with Calm Chicago will not go away. But the name will slowly fade into the ether. (Though the url will live on and  re-direct everyone here to the brand spanking new, Hillary-Johnson.com)

I will still teach meditation to individuals, groups and organizations.

I will still offer a free meditation time for our community.

There will be a new emphasis on healing our hearts and minds using creative writing and meditation. This is not just for “writers” but for all of you.

Why?

Because it is so easy to fall into what Tara Brach calls the trance of doing or trance of busyness and to forget who we are and how to be present and live fully and presently in the moment. And that my friends is a loss and heartache we simply do not need and cannot afford.

When we fall into this trance, we can forget as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us in her book Big Magic, that we are inherently creative by nature. We are all makers. It’s our birthright to celebrate this incredible gift of being human with all our opposable thumbs and consciousness, that meant that we were making drawings on cave walls long before agriculture, because we thought making things pretty and expressing ourselves creatively might have felt more important than anything else. (Big breathe) And that, friends, when we give ourselves permission, can create serious magic every day for ourselves and our loved ones and friends. Because then we are happier and get to spread that joy and aliveness everywhere we go.

I want all of you to enjoy the same sense of joy and wholeness that comes from truly inhabiting your true inner self (as I have learned to do) and from enjoying the sense of interconnection with the rest of creation that reflects more accurately the truth of our existence than the place of isolation in which so many of us live.

And that is the work we will all be doing here. My work is inspiring compassionate transformation through creative writing, meditation and movement.

I invite you to join me then. Please, if you feel so inspired, follow the blog, enroll in my classes and workshops, (lots of news coming there very soon), bring friends. Together, lets live as fully, wholeheartedly, creatively and compassionately as we can. We have this lifetime right here and now. Together, let’s make it amazing.

Oh gosh, and we’re going sailing! I almost forgot. This summer will see the first sailing retreats on Lake Superior with full weekends of creative writing, gentle movement, meditation and sailing on a most gorgeous antique sailboat The Manitou.

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Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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