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.


Thank you thank you

I confess I’ve no idea how to say thanks individually to all the wonderful people who have followed Calm Chicago recently.

So, I’ll do it here and hope no one feels sad.

Thank you so much. Your interest means more than I can say. I hope very much that together we can all leave the world a little better than how we found it.

I look forward to building community and hearing from you about what you’re all up to, and how we can help support you.


Spreading Peace and Happiness: One Way to Pause

We had an absolutely gorgeous community meditation this morning.

 Curiously, as we began, a furious rainstorm poured down all over the roof, the windows, the outside of the apartment. As we ended our meditation with a loving kindness practice, extending compassion to all beings, slowly the rain stopped, the clouds cleared away, and the sun emerged radiant.

It was a beautiful metaphor and perfect for the teachings we were considering today.

Storms are inevitable, not only in the weather outside, but inside our own hearts and minds. 

But we can learn not to get sucked into the storm, not to get sucked into the vortex of suffering.

We can recognize the storm by its very nature as impermanent.

While at the same time, being generous with ourselves, and compassionate. Every great faith tradition knows this. Sometimes it’s time to cry or laugh or any of the other the vast array of human emotions. And then, it will be time to let those emotions go, gently, and as we are ready to do so.

Through formal practice we can learn to observe the emotional weather, the mental weather, notice how it comes it goes with greater and greater ease over time.

Through formal practice we can open our hearts and be compassionate for ourselves. If we cannot be compassionate to ourselves how can we possibly be compassionate towards others?

So what to do when we are feeling distressed or pressed in the moment?

We can take three full deep breaths.

We can use the physical sensation of our breathing to reconnect for our own self, cultivating stability of heart and mind, in the present moment and connection to all living beings also breathing with us.

Let’s try this now, why don’t we?

Sit or stand wherever you are.

Take three slow deliberate breaths, allowing each one to be slightly longer and deeper than the previous one.

Let your  exhalation be slower and longer and more luxurious than each inhalation before it. Feel the stretch of the lungs, the muscles of the ribs, the expansion of the belly.

And on the third, last breath, as the lungs fill completely, hold the breath for just a few moments, as long as it’s comfortable. And then slowly, slowly let the breath exit the body.

Feel better?

This practice allows the prefrontal cortex to be activated and it allows the amygdala, the ancient part of the brain, which only knows  only two things; how to panic about not enough or feel under attack, to chill out and calm down.

Going through our day this way as well as we can, remembering to practice with the breath, can help reduce our stress by keeping us present.

Of course that practice is even further supported with a regular meditation practice which is more formal in nature.

And, going through the day this way each of us is able to leave the world a little bit better than the way we found it, a little bit more peaceful, a little bit happier. And that my friends, is no small thing.

Thank you for stopping by. Namaste.

Feel free to get in touch with us with any questions. 

Simplify. Focus on Essentials.

Things have been really crazy around here. It seems like this is a time of intense change, transformation, growth for so many of us. And of course, even changes for the better can be stressful.

Grad school in clinical psych is a TRIP! Wonderful, intense.  It’s really letting me see how much of my own work there is to do in order to best serve you all. I’m feeling really fortunate for all who nurture me on this adventure and look forward to this career change which is both a passion and a genuine beneficial contribution to this world of ours.

The big impulse I’m feeling, or dual impulses really are these:



The urge for simplicity is informing all aspects of my life. My husband and I hoping to move into a new space here in Chicago where we can live and work together. We should know tomorrow or at the latest sometime this week! So, please stay tuned for updates! We’re really excited because this would allow us both to offer so much more for all of you out there, both in terms of on-site classes and offerings via the interweb! My husband, Matt, is a martial artist and teaches ving tsun kung fu (a Chinese martial art great for young and old, men and women) in a very traditional way. The school is so amazing and I’m so proud of what he has been building all these years. So many schools focus on belts and test (all with very high fees) and competition and so-called fighting. We believe that the study of martial arts is not so much about this…


as it is this:


and this:

vtsda group summer 2015

We in the school (The Ving Tsun Self Defense Academy) really focus on building the martial skills for our own self cultivation, strength, confidence and the be able to come to the aid of those who when in trouble, are unable to  defend themselves. Matt teaches his students to prevail in life. It’s really something. You can also check out the school on Facebook. Matt also finally has an Instagram account! We are feeling really very techy now!

So, under the heading SIMPLIFY, we think this is going to be awesome and simple. Everything in one place.

Also, simplifying technology, like just going to one device, instead of phone, tablet and computer! WHOA! That is Way To Much for me. One thing please.

Also clothing. I tend to wear pretty much a basic uniform. The same all the time. I don’t want to waste time making choices about what to wear and fussing over style. That’s just not really me. I like to look nice and presentable but don’t want to have to think too hard about it. I want to use  my time for way for interesting things like learning, teaching and adventures! So you can totally expect with this move (I am imagining it happening already, even though I actually hate the work of upset/stress associated with moving but the results! Those will be fabulous…) that a lot of clothing and extra coats and just God where did all that stuff come from ANYWAY?, going right out the door for donation.

And as for number two, FOCUS. I have come to feel that Calm Chicago’s website seemed all over the place and needed also a paring down and focusing on offering fewer things in the best way I could possibly offer them. So, look for upcoming changes there too! 

A couple of things I’m looking at are:

  • More focus on classes and workshops that use writing as a tool for inner transformation

  • Very focused and fun, intense workshops/classes and online materials that focus on helping you all clear out those obstacles that get in the way of your own transformation and helping you become your wicked best self. (Yeah, I’m from Boston, so you’ll hear me say that wicked thing a lot. It’s a positive. Not like the wicked witch of the west or anything like that!)

I’d love to hear from you about any of this. What you would like to see and how. Meanwhile, stay tuned for news about the move and cross your fingers for us. And look for great stuff for the rest of the year and 2016!

Thanks so much for stopping by. Wishing you all lots of love, happiness and freedom to be your most authentic self, uniting your passion with helping the world be a better place.


Namaste, Hillary

Happy Hour

Spring cleaning isn’t just for the places we live but for the home inside, under the hoods of our hearts and minds too!

Spring has just got Calm Chicago busting out all over with new classes to help get you feeling really happy. And I don’t mean just your mood. That kind of happiness tends to come and go as fast as the weather changes in Chicago. What I’m talking about is sustainable, authentic happiness that comes from deep inside. The kind that lets you find your worthiness switch to the On position and keep it there.

So here you go, our newest class. Happy Hour!

Class Info

Ease into your weekend by giving your self some headspace and much needed balance in body and mind. Let your tension and stress melt away with an hour of gentle, mindful movement, stress management tips and guided meditation. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by stress, this class is for you!

Students learn by doing and sharing in this fun, interactive, experiential class. You’ll learn to create mental space, cultivate emotional intelligence, work with negative emotions, do quick centering strategies.

Come as you are. No special clothing or gear needed, though I suggest you can bring a notebook to record your new happy insights.

What to bring

A notebook and writing implement

Tuition: Just $20
Date: Saturday, June 6
Time: 12-2pm


Whooo! Calm Chicago Blog Milestone!


Calm Chicago has 52 followers! I can’t believe it. Thank you all dear readers, for showing up and showing interest. I hope very much you find what is here useful and beneficial. 

I’m just learning how to make things going tech-wise, so please don’t feel bad if I don’t answer you right away. It takes me a long time for me to learn how to do stuff.

Wishing freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering for all beings.


Mindfulness and Positive Psychology

There’s still time to enroll in our May 1st workshop @Powell’s Books UIC. We’ll enjoy a fun evening of identifying your signature strengths and looking at how to use them to build the life and well-being you want. Throw in a little mindfulness practice and you’re on way to a spring cleaning for your spirit! And why not bring a friend or two? Sign up now.Image