Being Your Own Best Friend:Booting Anxiety & Building Compassion

Being Your Own Best Friend:Booting Anxiety & Building Compassion

The rose doesn’t strive to be beautiful. It just opens.

This is one of series of Calm Chicago Chill Out sessions, which bring very small groups of people together for self care, listening to each other and ourselves, healing, and exploring the possibilities of living fully, authenitcally and from a sense of grounded peace and interconnection. The cost is low to make it super accessible. I invirte you to join in right away while there’s still spots.

We’ve all seen thos folks who always seem calm no matter what’s going on, right? Whether it’s in the midst of some crazy crazy weather, or a major deadline at work, or the El has broken down and sitting on the tracks forever, or dealing with major medical or health stuff. They just seem to be able to surf through it. While we are quietly or not so quietly cursing and secretly hating them, and knowing that for sure, we sish that was us but that we are the sort of person who is not CALM or self possessed and never will be.

If anxiety (social or otherwise) is a thing in your life and you’re tired of that being so; if you’ve heard about the importance of self care and compassion but can’t seem to get any, this workshop is for you.

Abiding calm and self love are not things that we can just wave a wand and BOOM, you have infinite amounts of them but you can learn how to cultivate them through simple practices that you can do at home, in the bathroom, in the car, on the El, everywhere you are in your day to day life. We’ll use tools from mindfulness, yoga and positive psychology, to give you the direct experience of learning how to get better at dealing with anxiety and bulding up your self love so that you can really become your own best friend. You’ll leave knowing how to practice these outside of class so that you can keep building those skills and feeling stronger and better day by day.

You will learn:
We’ll take these 2.5 hours to focus on supporting and encouraging you with specific exercises to help you feel better right here and now and making sure you know how to take the practices home with you with confidence.

How to practice simple awareness that bring you back to the moment with love
How to practice “on the fly”
How to identify what makes you feel great and get more of that good stuff
How to give yourself love and then spread that around to help create peace inside and out in the world
Quick tips for pausing amidst the chaos of life and emotions

Who should come to this?
You. Anyone who wants to be able to be able handle lifes inevitable ups and downs with more grace and ease; wants to feel safer, shappier, stronger no matter what is going on.

Who’s teaching this?
Hillary Johnson is a photographer and mindfulness and creativity coach who’s been leading retreats and helping people feel better and companies work better since 2008. She’s into travel and helping people feel authentic interconnection between themselves and all things. Also border collies, cattle dogs and bicycling.

Register with PayPal to: calmchcago at gmail dot com


Spring Transformation Course


Spring into Happiness: An Introduction* (Sign up here with a click)

Mindfulness Meditation, Movement and Writing!

Spring 2016 DATES:
Sundays 9-10:30

Let’s start spring with a spiritual clean out. After a long winter it’s good to cleanse not only the body but the heart and mind too. Get ready to move closer to finding your own unique gifts and the capacity to share them with the world.

Bring your open heart and discover how you can compassionately transform a month of mindfulness can bring you.

1.5 hour classes are mini-retreats featuring guided meditation, mindful movement and writing.

You will learn:

  • to cultivate gentle yet sharp and clear awareness of the body and mind
  • how to apply the lessons of your newly developing awareness from formal practice to your every day life  
  • how to hold yourself with greater compassion and acceptance
  • how to work with “negative” emotions
  • how to create greater sense of flow in your life
  • how to find your own happiness right here and now

The best attitude to come to the class with is this: simply open curiosity to see what will happen. I can’t tell you what will change for you, but I can promise you that if you commit to the course, something will indeed change.

Sound good? Sign up now!
Tuition is just $160 


Registration and payment required  to reserve your spot.

 What to bring:

  • wear soft, comfy clothes- layers are good

  • journal or notebook

  • something to write with

  • yoga mat

Other Details:

Where: 1839 S Halsted St (just south of 18th St.)

When: 9-10:30am Sundays starting March 6

Got any questions? Shoot me a line and I’ll be glad to help you out.

Registering for the class indicates your commitment to the entire program which supports your own development as well as the group as a whole. Refunds are available before the course commences.

We are easily accessed via public transit or have free street parking is available.


Retreat Schedule Sept 29-30 in Little Village

Taiji Retreat at MABA Sept. 11

Friends of Calm Chicago are invited to a taiji retreat at MABA on Sunday, Sept. 11.

This will be a full day of taiji, qigong, meditation and teachings by Master Ji Ru.

We are planning on going down early on Friday to help prepare. The retreat ends at 5pm on Sunday, meaning either a very late return to Chicago on Sunday or a very early departure Monday morning. It’s about a 6 hour trip and taiji principles say no speeding!

Advance registration is required. Get in touch with me asap to reserve your space.

A waiting list may be created.

Find the Breath: A Basic Meditation How To

Ultimately, meditation leads us to living each and every moment without struggle, without fears, hopes or anxiety about the past, present or future. Instead, we slowly learn to be fully and joyfully present observing life as it is with clear, wise seeing. This in turn allows us to think, speak and act in ways that most benefit ourselves and all around us.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s mini-retreat at Calm Chicago. We’re going to have a full house.

Preparing for any retreat always gets me thinking about the best way to teach people how to meditate, particularly those who may have little or no experience with this practice. I realize how important it is to keep things simple and straightforward.

It’s easy to get lost in all the misdirections of language. Words don’t always help as much as we think they will. We think they point to something specific, but often, the more we try to explain something, particularly something as profoundly simple as meditation, the more we find the words just lead us around in circles.

In that circumstance, we find that we are like the dog in a variation on the Zen story about the finger pointing to the moon. Roughly, the idea is this; When you point your finger towards the moon and say, “Hey there dog, look! See the moon?” – the dog only sees your pointing finger. The dog never sees the moon. When we talk too much about meditation, we can all be like the dog, caught by the words instead of going straight for the experience.

In the end, it is with meditation as it is with all things; each of us must try it for ourselves, experience it for ourselves, and investigate it for ourselves. This way leads to profound realizations, experienced both as we meditate and very importantly, in our every-day lives.

Meditation is not meant to be a temporary vacation or tuning out of the world. Ultimately, meditation leads us to living each and every moment without struggle, without fears,  hopes or anxiety about the past, present or future. Instead, we slowly learn to be fully and joyfully present observing life as it is with clear, wise seeing. This in turn, allows us to think, speak and act in ways that most benefit ourselves and all those around us. So, let’s get to it.

A simple, how-to for sitting meditation.

1. Find something to sit on where you can be comfortable for a time. Avoid that big squishy chair or couch. You don’t want to take a nap! Sit with good posture; if possible, without resting against the back of the chair. Maybe you have a kitchen or dining room chair that will do the trick.

2. Don’t worry about what to do with your hands. The idea that you have to do something special with them is a myth. Place them in your lap where it feels comfortable.

3. Relax. Try to find a posture where the spine is straight without creating tension.  You want to sit naturally.

4. Now, find the breath. Inhale and exhale through the nose. (If you’re congested, don’t worry about it. Just breath however you can today.) Notice where you feel the breath most strongly and clearly. Depending on how your nose is built, that might be just inside the tip of the nose, just inside the nostrils. Or, you might feel it more, just under the nose, on the skin just above the lip. It doesn’t matter which one. Take a few moments and just sit like that and breath and pay attention. Once you find the spot where you feel it the most, stay with that one place. This is the exact spot you’ll stay with in observing the breath when meditating. Don’t, as one of my teachers once put it, go shopping.

5. Now, just sit and breathe. Observe the full course of inhalations and exhalations at that one clear spot. Put the full attention of the mind on that spot. If the mind wanders, it’s okay. Just bring it back to the breath without judgement or worry. Mind wanders again? Just bring it back again. Do this over and over, gently returning the attention to the breath, as you perceive it, on your lip or inside the nose.

And that’s it! Simple, eh? You can sit this way for as long as you like. Especially in the beginning, no need to worry about how long to sit. Go with what you can do. Got five minutes? Sit for five minutes. Got 10, 20, 30 minutes? Sit for as long as you like. If you find the mind distracted by wondering about the time, set a timer.

Are there other things to say about meditation practice? Sure. We’ll address those things another day. One thing at a time. For now, the goal of this post is just to provide a good basic set up that anyone can try right now. So go on. Go get a chair and give it a try.

And for anyone local to Chicago, or if you’ll be visiting the area, if you want to learn more, Calm Chicago is here to offer what guidance we can. Feel free to contact us. The center has a new page too. Use that get the latest news, photos and so on.

Whatever media suits you, I look forward to hearing from you. Let us know how we can help your practice. Thanks for reading.

Register for Summer and Autumn Stress reducing mini-retreats @ Calm Chicago


practical, simple mindfulness to reduce your stress

Each a half day of profound peace and instruction in mindfulness through meditation, taiji and qigong.

Register for your Calm Chicago

SUNDAY JULY 25 1-5pm




Open to beginners, experienced folks, everyone. Bring some friends.

Calm Chicago turns ONE!

Celebrate quietly with us on Sunday, July 25th, 2010 1-5 pm.

A day of meditation, taiji and gentle qi gong will restore your body and mind.

Light refreshments, water and tea will be served. No prior experience required. I’ll teach you all you need to know. So come on and join us.

The retreat is open to beginners or advanced practitioners – anyone who wants to spend a day breathing deeply, invigorating the body and taking the plunge into peacefulness.

Previous participants say:

“Thanks! …a fantastic retreat!”

“…an extremely positive experience for both of us, and is finally something we can do together.”

“…absolutely wonderful!”

Just send me an e-mail or call saying you’d like to come. I’ll answer any questions and give you the access code for the building.

Thanks and peace everyone,