Ditching Evaluation

What if- just for a little while today we gave up all that constant evaluation of everything, most of all, our own sweet selves.

Evaluation, while it does have an eventual place under certain conditions, is generally just a form of death in which we give up our choice.

Because if we decide ahead of time whether something is either “good, bad, friendly or mean,” we eliminated all choice and are basically saying I’m not actually here and have no reason to be because I already “know” how it’s going to turn out. And we write off others in their truth and so much possibility!

But part of the juice and excitement in life IS making choices as we step moment by moment into the beautiful wild uncertainty of life.


Sharon Salzberg’s Street Loving Kindness

Sharon and her gang of creative, amazing, wise and compassionate friends have been making videos about how to practice compassion wherever you go. I just LOVE them.


And they make me feel so inspired to make some of my own featuring Chicago places. Lord knows I feel every day like I need more practice in loving kindness too living here. I confess that at first I was like, WOW, those videos of hers are so awesome and also a little jealous or something because I had JUST BEEN THINKING OF MAKING THE EXACT SAME THING! Augh! And so for a time I did nothing.

But I realized after sitting with it all for a while, that there’s no way two creative people will do the exact same thing at all anyway and that even more importantly, I believe we need as many reminders to practice loving kindness as possible. So, stay tuned. I’m making some videos on how to practice “On the Fly” here in the Windy City.


I’m also offering two new classes that will support your own loving kindness toward your own fine self as well as the rest of the world.

One is a Gentle Tai Chi class, made for all body types and abilities. We’ll meet every Saturday from 3:30-4:40 starting on 11/4. You can sign up via Eventbrite or via Chase QuickPay. (calm chicago at gmail dot com) or email me and we’ll figure out what works best for you! Cash is cool too!

The other thing is Second Sunday Meditation which I co-host with Matt Johnson in our shared space, where he teaches ving tsun kung fu and I do all the things I do, like photography, tai chi, coaching, and all kinds of things which are always growing and evolving. Check out the next one where our theme will be gratitude.

Till then, may all be happy, strong, healthy and at ease.


Lots of love to you, Hillary


6 Steps to De-Stress During High Stress Times

One of my students is going through a very high stress time right now. She’s a college student preparing for the MCAT test. A grueling seven-hour monster that a pre-requisite for getting into medical school (The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), developed and administered by the AAMC, is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles …) – Just reading this is enough to give a person a stress headache!
So, maybe you ‘re not taking a test like that but you have your own stressful stuff unfolding. The transition form spring into summer can do that. Kids getting out of school, work seasons change, job hunting, dealing with illnesses, etc. etc. I thought that it might be helpful for you all for me to share what I taught her today: Six Steps to De-Stressing During High Stress Times
So this week, try these out and please, let me know how it goes if you like. What questions come up? I’m happy to support you any way I can.
1. Journal about what you ingest, food, drink, friends, entertainments etc. What we put into the mind, body and spirit is what we become. Put another way, what we surround ourselves with is what we become. So it makes sense to really pay attention to what all that stuff is and examine it for ourselves, asking the question of each thing: Is this beneficial or wholesome for me or not? I encourage you to keep the log first and then examine it all for patterns and benefits or detriments.
2. Meditate on a regular schedule. It’s can also be quite beneficial to do a brief bit of journal writing before and after you practice. This doesn’t have to go on for long, even a few minutes of writing can provide a great deal of insight when paired with meditation.  It’s not unusual to have a hard time creating a regular schedule but, boy, is it ever good for you. Your heart and mind like the rhythm of regularity and the discipline of sticking to something good for you.
3. Regulate your sleep, food and exercise as much as you can. You are in charge of making choices about what you do. Ask your friends to support you in this. So if you say no to some activity like a party that will go too late or be a little too crazy for you right now, for example, they shouldn’t beg you to come along but trust your discernment and support you. Also see number 2.
4. Do walking meditation before sitting practice. This helps energize, stabilize and focus your mind and body for sitting meditation.
5. Try the PRO technique: Pause, Relax, Open offered by mindfulness expert Elisha Goldstein
6. If you like, comment here when you practice meditation and I’ll send you a hi-five in return and a meditation tip!
May you be well, safe, happy, may you live with ease.
With Metta,

Three Minute Walking Meditation

I’ll be teaching walking meditation at Hanig’s on North Ave. May 26th. Check it out. Also awesome shoes. You could win a pair in a drawing. Also drawing for deal on individual sessions with me focusing on the area of your choice.HANIG FLYER

Mindful Metta Mondays @Heartwood

Mindful Metta Mondays

img_1145Start Your Week Alive, Empowered
and Connected


Mindful Metta Mondays
The Heartwood Center in Evanston

with Hillary Johnson

Registration is now open. Sign up to reserve your spot.

This summer the course will run each month for four weeks on Monday nights

June 6, 13, 20, 27, 2016, 7pm-8pm

July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 2016, 7pm-8pm

August 15, 22, 29, September 5, 2016, 7pm-8pm


1818 Dempster Street, Evanston, IL 60202

4-week course $72 ($18/class) or $20 Drop in


When we cultivate our natural capacity for opening the heart and allowing it to blossom, we get closer to the best versions of ourselves. Metta or loving kindness is a powerful transformative practice that deepens recognition of our profound interconnection with all living things, allowing us to experience this sense of connection, even with the difficult people in our lives. Insights are sharpened and equanimity is accessed when we integrated Mindfulness Meditation and Metta with Contemplative Writing, This course will help you develop and deepen your:

  • Concentration
  • Connection
  • Courage/Fearlessness
  • Authentic Happiness
  • Discernment


Metta helps us awaken our hearts into a sense of spacious freedom, allowing us to bring greater loving kindness into everyday life, work and love. As we gain greater clarity and insight into our own hearts and minds by bringing attention to how we think, speak and act, we can open to a whole new, more discerning and caring way for engaging with ourselves and others.

As you develop your practice, you’ll see the fruits of greater loving kindness everywhere. This ongoing/repeatable class will help you sustain your practice and nurture the qualities of loving kindness with direction instruction, guided meditation and contemplative writing. There will also be plenty of opportunities for conversation and communal support for your practice.


The more you practice, the greater the gifts. You will:

  1. Feel your stress and tension dissolve.
  2. Loosen the grip of tightening fear in the heart  and feel it turn into open and spacious caring.
  3. Experience a sense of ongoing renewal, peace, and confidence arising from your own loving kindness practices

It’s not surprising that many people consider calming the mind through meditation as first step to a more peaceful, less stress-filled life. Yet, compassion and loving kindness have the power of water, a gentle force for courage allied with wisdom. Enjoy the peace of offering the gift of your compassion for others as we hold them quietly in our hearts.


Through cultivating empathy and understanding we expand our capacities for resolving conflicts and strengthen and multiply our possibilities for creatively easing suffering in the world and in our own hearts.

This course is for both new and experienced meditators. Bring a notebook and your favorite writing implement. You may bring a meditation cushion or bench if you like, but we also provide everything you need to be comfortable.

4-week course $72 ($18/class) or $20 Drop in

Email Hillary with any questions


Register by calling Hillary at  312-714-4563 (Please leave a message if no answer)


Use this link to register now.

Thank you. I look forward to practicing with you soon.

With Metta, Hillary


Two Step Walking Meditation

Metta in this Moment

Though we tend to tumble headfirst into the next moment out of sheer force of habit, we can train ourselves to pause in the midst of our busy days. We can ground ourselves in the midst of stressful situations by bringing awareness down to our feet, feeling the earth supporting us. Grounding ourselves this way, we’re more able to handle whatever difficulties arise with more grace and increased empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.

Mindfulness Practice with the Feet

Bring your awareness to your feet. Feel them in your shoes. See if you can feel each toe on its own without wiggling them. It’s okay if you can’t. We’re not seeking any special experience. We just want to see what’s going on right here and now.

Now – Feel the shoes gently holding your feet. Next allow yourself to feel that the sole purpose of the earth, it’s only job, is to hold you up. Rest in that awareness.

2012_0506_images_10a_berry_conversation_wendell_portrait(The great Wendell Berry)

Simple Walking Meditation

Walking requires a constant shifting of our weight from foot to foot, an act we rarely pay much attention to. As we shift the weight, it’s as if we fill one leg and empty the other, of weight, of energy, however you like to think of it. This occurs as we place first one foot down in front of us to step forward and then the next. Let’s slow this process down for a few steps to attend mindfully to the many sensations of walking.

  1. As you step forward, place your foot down ever so softly, feeling that initial contact with the ground or floor. Slowly begin to shift your weight into your forward foot, feeling it supporting you as you fill the leg up.
  2. Be aware at the same time, of your rear foot and leg. Feel how the rear leg gets emptier and emptier; the foot releasing contact with the ground.

Repeat for a few steps, up to ten.

Walking is actually a wondrous act. Let’s enjoy it together. Let’s be grateful for our capacity to walk. Let’s take a moment of gratitude for our feet and legs.


Pausing is Possible Anytime

You can practice this simple walking meditation any time. It’s a very good practice before any stressful events like meetings, difficult conversations etc. Try pausing next time you’re heading somewhere. The simple act remembering that you can pause and doing it, even for a moment or a few steps, is incredibly powerful.

Work as a Spiritual Practice

I made a discovery recently.


Lots of people  are going to work drugged, perhaps slightly intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, to numb themselves or highly overstimulated with everything from Red Bull to what we used to call uppers. I know this to be true because people have been telling me about in hushed, confessional, frequently whispered conversations., followed by fits of nervous laughter.

I have no idea what all the reasons for this are, of course. None of us, as far as I know, has a super power that lets us read minds or know what’s really going on in the hearts of others. Exploration of this kind of thing is the stuff of books handled by writers wiser than me.

But I do know this. We suffer frequently because of what’s going on in our own hearts and minds, because of anger, frustration, lack of compassion for ourselves and others.

And that?

That’s something we can do something about. We can practice loving kindness at work. Here then, are some guidelines for simple, portable, adaptable practice. I invite you to give it a try and see how it goes for you. Of course, I’d love to hear back from you, how it goes, what questions might come up along the way.


Loving Kindness Practice

We start with ourselves because we so infrequently give ourselves the kind of TLC that we all really need but perhaps do not receive very frequently. I think of it as being at least for a few moments, ideal parents for ourselves.

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be strong

May I live with ease

Then we extend the circle further to include some beloved one in our lives, human or otherwise. Pets are okay too!

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Then we extend further still to include some familiar stranger. Someone we see around in our daily lives but don’t really know. We might not even know their names. Just the face is familiar.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Next we expand our circle further to include even those who we feel has caused us some suffering or some trouble. It’s probably a good idea not to pick the most traumatic or most difficult person or situation right off the bat. No need to overload ourselves. Vulnerability doesn’t mean, throw yourself under a bus.

We can try to remember that everything this person has done and in fact everything we ourselves do arises from a desire to reduce suffering, stress, agitation, unhappiness. Obviously sometimes, this doesn’t go so well and pain arises. But because we tend to place ourselves at the exact center of the universe and find ourselves faultless, (compared to all those other folks out there, we can forget that we are all culpable. We are all implicated in the world’s suffering.

And so, to the best of our ability, we can work with this with some compassion and spirit of generosity. When we feel harmed by someone, instead of going immediately to anger, we can call up the opposite feeling and send wishes for peace and so forth to the target of our anger or frustration.

You may feel some resistance doing this. That’s okay. Just notice what’s arising and if it feels a little too intense, just allow yourself to back off some and move on to the next step in the progression. Otherwise, just work with what you have right here and now, whatever capacity you may have, even it’s a very tiny sliver of compassion, the most infinitesimal spark of lovingkindness, and send what you have out there as sincerely as you can.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Finally, we send these wishes out to all beings with whom we share this planet/time: visible and invisible, seen and unseen, known and unknown, large and small. We recognize that all beings, even the tiniest, one-celled organism moves toward food and away from toxicity. Are we not the same? We all want what feels good and all feel a desire to move away from what is unpleasant.

You might say that in terms of going off the cliff of anger, that allowing ourselves to do this, unconsciously all the time, makes no more sense than driving our car off a cliff. I mean, we wouldn’t have to think twice about that. It just doesn’t make sense to drive our car off a cliff. (Everybody dies!) In the same way, it makes no sense to go off the cliff of anger.

We can practice with remembering that we’re all in this together and just keep sending out the good vibes. When this feels hard to do, when we feel ourselves getting irritated, we can simply remember that this is why we call it practice!

May all beings be safe

May all beings be happy

May all beings be strong

May all beings live with ease

The more we practice this, the easier it gets to be. The words may run just under the surface of everything we do and becomes easier to call up into the moment. We can practice at work, on the train, on public transportation, when in line at the grocery store.

With time, we find the world and our own hearts softening just a bit. We may notice we’re slightly less inclined to fly off the handle. The ripple effect of this is huge.

Think of it. It’s easy to see that each moment is most colored, affected, shaped by the preceding moment. If we’re angry in this moment, we’re more likely to be cranky and angry in the next moment. It becomes snowball of negative emotions. On the other hand, if we aiming for peace and happiness in this moment, we’re more likely to feel peaceful and happy in the next moment too. That’s a much nicer emotional snowball to have rolling don’t you think?


I urge you to try it wherever you are. Sharon Salzberg calls this Street Lovingkindness. We can in this way, enter each moment more aware of what’s going on, less reactive and more responsive. Once you do the practice a lot, the words will be right there for you. And feel free, if you can remember them exactly to let them go and just use whatever words of kindness come to you in the moment.

Thanks for stopping by.