Chicago Creatives Portraits Project


Are you a Chicago writer or artist? Would you like to have a free portrait made in your own space, studio, creative place? I’m interested in documenting the amazing, rich artistic community that is Chicago. I’m old school. Shooting mostly film and working in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martine Franck etc. I believe the work is improvisational in nature. There is so much happening in our community of writers, artists, musicians, dancers and other makers and the people who support them (gallerists, venue directors etc.) that makes for a truly special time in our history and which needs to be documented. So, if you’re interested or know someone who should be included, please message me and let’s make a plan. Check out some of my images right here at: https://hijcreative.com Many thanks. 

Advertisements

I’m in a show! One Night Only


So, I’m doing this amazing thing and want you all to come.​
 It’s called Fear Experiment℠ (FE) is a unique, fun way to create community, push oneself, learn something new, and laugh. A lot. Strangers come together to learn an art-form, rehearse for two and half months, and then are rockstars for a night, in front of hundreds. For people not looking to be the next Baryshnikov or Tina Fey but looking to challenge themselves, meet others, and have a consistent source of laughter and support. 


And while I wouldn’t mind being Tina Fey, to be honest, I’m not. But still would love you to come and be one of the folks making audience suggestions that will help us creat magic for you in the moment – something beautiful right now- 


here’s the link for tix: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fear-experiment-the-show-tickets-27716478734 
The show is open to all ages, so bring the gang. 
Keep calm and be kind on, Hillary 


PS. I need to sell 11 more tickets! Help!

I’m in a show!


So, I’m doing this amazing thing and want you all to come.


 It’s called Fear Experiment℠ (FE) is a unique, fun way to create community, push oneself, learn something new, and laugh. A lot. Strangers come together to learn an art-form, rehearse for two and half months, and then are rockstars for a night, in front of hundreds. For people not looking to be the next Baryshnikov or Tina Fey but looking to challenge themselves, meet others, and have a consistent source of laughter and support. 


And while I wouldn’t mind being Tina Fey, to be honest, I’m not. But still would love you to come and be one of the folks making audience suggestions that will help us creat magic for you in the moment – something beautiful right now- 

here’s the link for tix: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fear-experiment-the-show-tickets-27716478734 

The show is open to all ages, so bring the gang. 

Keep calm and be kind on, Hillary 

PS. I need to sell 11 more tickets! Help!

Daily Practice is Never a Waste of Time


“Daily practice is never a waste of time.” (Sharon Salzberg)

Lovingkindness-Slider2

Even though we might not see the fruits of our practice right away (like, while we are actually DOING our formal practice, while our butts are on the cushion or bench or whatever), we CAN have confidence that the fruits WILL come.

Sometimes the effects might be very subtle or we might not feel it or notice it, but then something HAPPENS! (Cuz you KNOW life is ALWAYS going to give us opportunities) And then – BOOM! We suddenly notice that the way we are reacting is DIFFERENT than it was before.

This weekend at Kripalu, while I was on retreat with Sharon Salzberg and Stephen Cope, Sharon told a funny story about one of the first weeks she ever sat and did Metta practice all alone. She spent the week focusing on her self, using Metta phrases like, May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be strong, may I have ease of well-being. She said the whole week felt sort of dull and boring; nothing interesting happening at all and that she was sort of wondering if she hadn’t wasted a week because she didn’t feel anything special while she was sitting and practicing.

But then life intervened. A friend got sick and a bunch of the folks sitting had to leave the retreat center to go help them. In the rushing around of getting ready to leave the center, she dropped a big glass jar of some kind, sending shards of glass all over the place. A real mess. She noticed that her first thoughts were, God, you’re a clutz but I love you. She realized in that moment, that in the past she would have really been angry at herself and that clearly something had in fact been happening during her week of  Metta practice toward herself.

img_0868

Perhaps we are calm when we might’ve flown off the handle. We don’t holler like we would have done just last week or last year. (Like when the cats woke you up at four a.m., hollering for food even though you just got home from an intense weekend. AND, even though you did just feed them a few short hours ago… Don’t they KNOW you need some sleep for God’s sake!) In fact, this did happen to me this morning and I know I handled it totally differently than I have in the past.

In the past, I’ve experienced the rapid heartbeat of being startled awake and muttering under my breath or even actually hollering at the cats. A lot of  God damn it, why can’t they just shut up or be more like a dog and wait for the freaking food to arrive when I get up! A spray bottle of water has been involved many times. In the process, I’ve awakened my sleeping husband, who has the amazing capacity to sleep through absolutely anything! And how does he sleep like that? Why doesn’t he wake up and feed them? I got these cats FOR HIM after all. Shouldn’t he be taking care of them not me! Doesn’t anyone see the terrible injustice which I am now suffering!? ARGH!

I have stormed down the stairs fuming and slammed food into their dishes and wondered in my raging head, how  much longer will the darn beasts actually LIVE! (They are now 18 years old, heading toward 19 with no obvious sense of physical decline.) And in case you think I’m a cat hater, know this: I am not a cat hater. New to living with cats, yes. But I love them and for proof, feel free to check my Facebook or Instagram feeds for copious evidence. Pinky, who adopted me with a fierce and adoring intensity after my dog Tiger, died, has been renamed by me, AKA The Assistant. He actually has his own hashtag. He’s a happy part of my daily writing life. He tells me when it’s time for a break by jumping up and laying across my arm so I can do nothing other than pat him. Put down that pen Mom. And I listen to his furry feline wisdom.

This morning, when they woke me, I was really tired from a day of traveling back from retreat, but I could just empathize with the reality that they were hungry and needed food. They have the communication skills they do (meowing, box and paper shredding Very Loudly for a few examples) and use them well. I was able to have a feeling of tender appreciation of their plight rather than anger. The weekend of Metta practice definitely is already making a HUGE difference. Sharon, my cats thank you deeply for your teachings. 

I tiptoed down the stairs, picked Pinky up and cuddled him and quietly opened the can of food and plopped some into their dish and actually enjoyed the funny sounds they make while eating. It’s like a super yummy sound (think Young Frankenstein) with lots of lip smacking and purring. How wonderful to do something which created so much kitty happiness so easily. Then I crawled back into bed for a little extra R&R. Shortly after, I had two furry cuddle buddies. It doesn’t get much better than that.

IMG_0869

Though our formal practice might have felt kind of boring, or uninteresting, under the surface we were changing and it just took having an opportunity (something life will ALWAYS give us) to see that change become manifest.

So have courage yogis! Have some faith.

Look closely at your thoughts, the things you say and things you do.

I bet if you look with a close attention, you will notice that you’re changing slowly, bit by bit.

Your daily practice is NEVER a waste of time.

cropped-img_0810.jpg

May all be happy. May all be peaceful.

Crying on the Yoga Mat


“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance form his body.” – James Joyce

Lying on my yoga mat last night in class, between poses,  just grateful to be there even though I’m sweating like crazy and thinking I must really stink when the teacher, Jessica Young of Tejas Yoga in Chicago (also a friend and killer human being, writer, defender of rights of all beings) comes to adjust my posture. 

Jess is calling out the cues for postures and I’m following along like a dog, a grateful yoga dog, breathing (ok sometimes it sounds like feels more like panting,) and stretching as much as I can.

img_0867

I’m beginning to stop being such a border collie and going full out into what could be way too much for me on a given day and accepting the body as it is, day by day.

Striking that blessed balance between effort and ease.

I just love that I can come here and someone else will tell me what to do to help me heal my body and my spirit, my heart and my mind. An hour or more of asanas, one after the next after the next. Lots of sweating.

Finally, the rest pose, corpse pose, savasana. And I love that Jess clicks on the AC , “to take the edge off.” I pull a blanket over my body with deep gratitude. Savasana is often an emotional time for me. Whatever has been under the surface comes bubbling up.

kitty-savasana

I love that yoga class ends with this. Well it doesn’t “End” with it but it does marks the beginning of the end of each and every class.

Corpse pose, letting everything fall away and down, the brain resting in the back of the head, the eyeballs falling into the little craters in my face, the occipital orbits.

And the breath just happening on its own, letting go of all effort-fulness.

So last night, I’m lying there, suddenly my husband’s words about gentleness and living gently come to me and I’m crying; the tears leaking out of eyes and running into my ears. I don’t move but let them come. I let go even of worry and analysis.

I’m feeling grateful for his presence and what feels like a total softening of our whole thing together. I wonder if it’s all the Metta practice I’ve been up to lately or all the shit that’s come down in the last weeks or so, but I guess I don’t really have to know. I can tell you this: We have both lived our lives util we knew each other, under a great deal of duress and extremes which are next to the words in the dictionary: not gentle living. (if that was a real entry)

It feels good this gentleness. Like crazy good. Like we are finally relaxing into who we really are, deep inside. Healing the wounds. Developing the gifts. But that’s another idea for later.

After corpse pose, there’s the rolling over to the side into a fetal position and taking breaths there and when ready, allowing yourself to be born again, using the strength of the arms and the breath to press yourself up into a sitting posture. Then Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, and final gratitude and wishes for all beings to find peace. 

I love being reborn every time I unroll my mat. Where else can I get that?

I end class with this. So simple yet challenging to live out fully: Committing to being here each moment as it is, but really being here instead of a short distance away.

I wish you well.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Hillary

Writing Advice: Ann Patchett


Here’s today’s writing inspiration from the delightful and brilliant novelist Ann Patchett:
  • Don’t be afraid to make money writing the kinds of things you’d never write for the fun of it. There’s no shame in earning a living, and whatever you write, even catalog copy or fluffy magazine articles, makes you a better writer.
  • Writing about my happy marriage is alot more difficult, a lot more intimate, than writing about the unhappy stuff. But it’s my story to tell, and if I think I can learn something important, or share something important, I’ll tell it.
  • Staying focused, sitting at your desk, is your number one job as a wr iter. There’s always something else to do. Don’t do it! Remember, time applied equals work completed.
Why do you write?
Happy Writing!

Hillary

IMG_0029

Thich Nhat Hanh on Compassion


Thank goodness that meditation and Metta practices are just that, practices. If we had to be perfect at them, we’d all give up crying.

But we do call them practices, not perfects.

IMG_1154

It is truly an irony of the human condition that sometimes when we suffer the most, we contract and pull away from our loved ones. The pain can be so awful, especially when loved ones fails us. When we feel that a loved one should have said or done things differently but they instead chose actions which we feel have harmed us. This is the worst pain of all because it carries such loneliness inside of it.

Perhaps a father has not cared for us the way we wished. He is trapped in addiction.

Maybe our mother didn’t cuddle us enough. We longed for more of her touch. Her unconditional love.

A guardian may have failed to protect us from abuse of one kind or another. Someone allowed us out the door and we got hurt. We rage against this later, screaming in our hearts, why didn’t you protect me?

A partner didn’t meet our every need or read our mind to know what we wanted or needed without being told.

When we feel this way, we feel cut off from everything, even from the life force itself. If we get stuck here, we may wither until we die from sadness. Sometimes this looks like depression, very bad depression. It can be so hard to move.

img_1057

I know this is true from my own experience. If I argue with my husband, and feel cut off from him, I feel a sadness, a loneliness so deep. The worst kind of pain. And I can make this pain worse by further condemning myself for having this reaction. I should do better. I know better. It feels just terrible. Fortunately, this happens less and less frequently because I have practices to lean on.

But we can also forget what we know to be true and so we need loving reminders. It can be so wonderful, such a blessing to hear a healing truth again and again, so that the door to compassion may be opened in our hearts.

Few are some simply beautifully eloquent as Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh in this regard. Please enjoy this lovely interview from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with our teacher Brother Thay. I’m especially loving and honestly moved to tears by, his mantras for transforming relationships.

May all find peace, happiness and strength. May all live with ease.