What do I do?


Because this spring season is just bursting with energy for growth and transformation, I’ve been digging into my own soul a lot. This has been in many ways a very hard fall and winter. Here’s a list of some stuff that happened. Please note that at the time they occurred, my natural impulse was to label them as BAD, as unwanted, not desirable experiences. I was enjoying Full metal jacket aversion.

  1. I fell down 21 tall wooden stairs and smashed butt, ribs and left elbow (OUCH!)
  2. We moved our home and business into one space during a blizzard (wanted the move, but OMG stressful! And SNOW!)
  3. I got really sick over Thanksgiving (about the same time as the move)
  4. I had to work with someone who was super toxic for 16 weeks
  5. The grad program I started with full tuition waiver grad assistant/teaching assistant lost all that funding, effectively killing off my ability to go to grad school (clinical psychology – Illinois state budget crisis)
  6. I woke up one day with a total inability to move due to huge muscle spasms in the back and a pinched femoral nerve.
  7. David Bowie died

Well, it turns out that each of these things was a teacher for me. Though some of it felt kind of challenging to say the least, I was able to remember that it really is true that every single thing is our teacher, is what we need, is part of the Divine. (Thank you Swami Sankarananda for the reminders about that piece.)

I know that I’m not the only one to struggle with things like this. Have you had some experience lately that made you think, Argh! I hate this! I don’t want this right now? What a pain in the …? 

When things like that happen it’s natural to want to push them away or shove them under something, a pile of laundry, under a rug.

But this only prolongs our agony.

So, why and how did I turn that list of crap experiences into something good?

It was simple really. But required deliberate intention to learn, to see what I was doing and be open to new ways of perceiving.

  1. Falling down? I was rushing and really I had no need to. This is a habit of mine. Impatient by nature, I need constant reminders to slow down.
  2. The move was something we really wanted and we had lots of help making it happen. It’s good to remember when things are difficult, all the things that are in fact going well – those things for which we can offer specific, direct gratitude. Like in this case, the fact that a lot of people help us move through a blizzard and did it cheerfully!
  3. No use to fight about getting sick. It was an early sign that I was totally over doing things. Which I ignored at the time. (Did I say sometimes I’m slow to catch on and stubborn? I am!)
  4. This was the hardest one, but was a gift in two major ways. One, it helped me see what I do not want to be and two, it helped me work on my loving kindness or Metta practice, which went a long way to showing me that the person I had to deal with was suffering tremendously and needed my compassion.
  5. Losing the funding was hard because I had worked for two years really getting ready for grad school, taking pre-reqs, reading and studying so many books, and having to give up the direction which I worked so hard to claim a stake in. But, it also did two beautiful things: One, it showed me that I really didn’t want to be a psychologist, though I do want to help people and two, it shoved me back into my writing life asking me to pair that with my desire to help others.
  6. The back thing was my body screaming at me to pause and take stock of my life. I had pushed too hard for too long and the body had had enough and decided to send an unequivocal message. Stop! Intermission! Plan B!
  7. David Bowie. (Well, more on this in another post later) the main thing I want to say here, is that his death helped me embrace who I  really am and what my gifts really are and take actions to begin to manifest that in ways which are good for me and others.

All of which is to say, that one of the big things for me this spring has been to go through a process of discovery, contemplation and reinvention. I have new, better, more clear answers to the question, “So what do you do?” And that’s not even the main point though it is helpful to be able to speak that truth with clarity and certitude.


I have come to realize that my gift as Stephen Cope puts it, is in my presence as a wounded healer, who helps people find their true calling by helping them discover what their unique gifts are and how to bring them into fruition, and all that in order to help make the world a better place through that action.

What the work I do does, is to inspire compassionate transformation using meditation, writing and movement. I work with writers of course, to help bring out their strongest work but also lots of other people, human beings who want to grow and develop their fullest potential using these lovely tools.

Here I offer few of the phrases and quotes which guide me and may inspire you in this work.

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
– Jesus Christ

How will you feel if you do not do it?
– Dani Shapiro from February Kripalu retreat

Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.
– Thomas Merton

Do you answer no to the question – Do you feel like you are living your life to the fullest possible?

Or yes to this question, – Do you feel like have a special gift or purpose but are not quite sure what is it but have a burning desire to know this truth inside you? 

Then please contact me and let’s work together. Free 20 minute consultation.

312-714-4563 or email me at calmchicago [at] gmail [dot]com



Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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