Zen and Taking the Ego Out of the Workplace


Every time we say, “I” “Me” or “Mine,” we reinforce our ego.  At the office this can be a source of trouble. (other places too of course)

Experiment with being the smallest person in the room at work. Try to sit and listen without judging or jumping instantly in with things like, “What I think we should do is…” or pushing your idea ahead like a charging bull.

Practice at work by using those three words as little as possible. See what you notice. Over time I bet stress levels will go way down. And you set a great example for others in humility.

Remember it wasn’t a jack hammer that made the Grand Canyon, it was soft, soft water.

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Carry the work, not the worry!


How many times at work do you find yourself theoretically attending to a task but suddenly realizing that your mind feels fuzzy, unfocused? You’re not really paying full attention.

Why? Maybe you’re  preparing a presentation, speaking in a meeting, engaged in team-work with colleagues, across the desk from your boss.

Here is a very usual scenario. Half your mind is on the specific task but the other half (or more) is wrapped up with worry, anxiety, resentments or anger.

For now, let’s skip why this is and have a go at making it stop. Because this kind of thing is a huge drain on energy and can leave a person feeling mighty bad by day’s end.

Try this:

See if you can just notice when negative feelings arise while you’re working. Just notice that it’s happening. Practice letting it go by bringing your attention to your breath and refocusing purely on the task at hand. Each time you notice it, even its many times – don’t worry. Just keep letting it go.

Keep me posted.

Waking Up at Work Makes Every Task Joyful


I don’t mean you should be sleeping at work so you can wake up there. This is the kind of waking up that will make every day at work feel lighter.

In the introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Zen Keys, Philip Kapleau writes:

“..we live in a society where the object for so many is to do as little work as possible, where the workplace, whether office or home, is looked upon as a place of drudgery and boredom, where work rather than being a creative and fulfilling aspect of one’s life is seen as oppressive and unsatisfying. How different is this from Zen! In Zen everything one does becomes a vehicle for self-realization, every act, every movement is done wholeheartedly, with nothing left over.”

He goes on to show us that all we have, moment by moment is the doing of the task at hand in its purest form. At home – washing the dishes, cleaning the litter box, carrying the laundry … at work – typing the words, sitting in the meeting, crunching the numbers, digging the ditch, measuring the wood and so on. To “wake up” in this sense means we clean our minds of all the babbling in the mind, all the ideas of what we like or don’t like about the work we are doing, and develop an ability to simply and purely do the task required without any judging action in our minds.

When we do this, every action becomes our meditation. Every action is a way to “wake up.” In this way, each day can be fulfilling and joyful as we learn to come fully into the present moment, accepting it as it is.

Try it this week. Let me know how you do. When you do each thing at work, what ever that is, just do that one thing. When the mind begins to judge it, like it – don’t like it. Bring your attention back to the task, purely and cleanly.

See if you don’t turn your daily grind into your daily delight.

Meditation is critical to seeing clearly: a message from my teacher, Master Ji Ru


This is a message from my teacher,
Master Ji Ru, Abbot of the
Mid-America Buddhist Association
Some people say Buddhism is pessimistic. Buddhism is not pessimistic. It is not optimistic. Buddhism is realistic. It asks us to remove the fog that clouds our thinking. When our minds are clear, we can see conditions clearly; and, when you see conditions clearly because you have mastered your mind, the struggle ends.Then, moving from moment to moment, you joyfully accept all conditions.

Problems are not bad or good. Problems are situations requiring a solution. Solutions that work come from clear minds. We are faced with very big problems at this point in our history. Pollution, poverty and war, for example, threaten all of us. These problems are increasing, not decreasing. Soon,scientists say, these problems will be out of our control. But, so far, our solutions have been lacking because our minds are not clear.

Having not mastered our minds, we are unable to see conditions clearly, and we continue to struggle. Now, time is running out. We have to learn how to see conditions clearly, through meditation and practice. We have to learn to master our minds. There is no other way.

~ Master Ji Ru (Shifu)
I’d like to add only that one need not become a Buddhist to practice and receive the profound benefits of daily meditation. I strongly encourage you all to experience it yourselves and see.

I agree very much with my teacher, that we are at a critical juncture. What we do, say and think every day matters. Meditation allows us to embark on a path in which we can clearly see  our deep links of interconnection as well as the state of our own minds.

It’s a matter of good housekeeping. When the house is a mess our lives are chaotic. We can’t find the keys, the homework, the tools we need for everyday life. When the mind is in confusion and disarray, we know how hard it is to see and think clearly. Meditation gives us the habits of keeping the mental house clean so we can make choices that allow us to live more wisely, peacefully and happily.

The future is being created right now, minute by minute. We need to bring the most clarity and mindful awareness we can to all our actions, words and thoughts. In this way we can hope solve the problems facing our planet now and tomorrow.

Thanks for reading this and giving these ideas your attention and consideration. Wishing peace and happiness for everyone. Hillary

Website update and Facebook retrofit for Calm Chicago


Check out the updated web site for new info and a streamlined look. Let me know what works for you out there. I’m not a very technical person…which is a major understatement. I welcome opinions and ideas.

You’ll find updated info about class times, retreats and more.

Also, we’re about to do a major change with Facebook. The whole goal is to make it all simpler and easy for you all to find, use and enjoy.

Also for the center, tell me what you all would like to see happen that’s not. Or what you like a lot. The center is here for you to help you relieve stress and calm the mind and body. I love to hear back from visitors anytime.

Peace and happiness to all, Hillary

Chicago: Slow your Summer Down – (or zen and the art of relaxation!)


Calm Chicago is on A Fresh Squeeze! Please give it a read and let me know what you think. Love to hear from you what works to make your summer more mellow.

A Fresh Squeeze is a terrific resource for all kinds of green living/working/playing info in Chicago. Plus, they offer the Fresh Squeeze card which gets you discounts on loads of stuff.