Art Balances Us


Rise and shine art lovers! 

There’s still time to register for my class on Saturday at the Art Institute of Chicago, in which we might figure out how this piece of art, this lovely painting of a young woman with a book, sitting quietly might help us ourselves to find a way to be rebalanced from the stresses of everyday life. 

Perhaps she reminds us that it’s good to sit down and step away from the news, to turn off our digital media. 

The directness of her gaze might indicate that she’s speaking straight to us, inviting us to enjoy even a moment of solitary contemplation perhaps with a good book. 

Because certainly with the work schedules that we all keep, the challenges of trying to strike a work/life balance, we could use a little help seeking balance. Couldn’t we? 

I hope you’ll join us. 

Here’s the link for tickets.

 #artastherapy #artforintroverts #artinstituteofchicago #ArtInChicago #ArtAsTherapeuticExperience #learningtosee #alaindebotton #chicago #LadyBoss #entrepreneur #carpediem #ilovemuseums #chicagocreatives #artbalances

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The Page is Your Mirror


What happens inside you is reflected back. You come face-to-face with your own resistance, lack of balance, self loathing, and insatiable ego — and also with your singular vision, guts, and fortitude. No matter what you’ve achieved the day before, you begin each day at the bottom of the mountain. Isn’t this true for most of us?

  — Dani Shapiro, Still writing the Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Today, all of us, let’s enjoy our journey up the mountain together. One sacred step at a time. 

The Stories in Our Hearts


DSCF2079Peaceful walled garden for meditation and writing


SPRING WRITER’S RETREAT 

Join me for a meditative approach to developing your work, whether you’re writing memoir, fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry. This workshop teaches writers how to drop into the present moment with the kind of curiosity and concentration that allows you to make deep discoveries and find new connections between ideas formerly thought unrelated,* and to access material from your own life experience to share in profound and powerful ways on the page. This course is for writers of all stages of evolution; whether you’ve been dreaming of writing but haven’t quite put pen to page just yet, or you’ve been at this for some time.

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IN THIS RETREAT YOU WILL:

  • Learn simple ways of deepening your powers of concentration to support creativity and flow
  • Learn to become more aware of the ever changing river of thoughts and emotions which connect with your life-narrative this understanding your thoughts, words, and actions with greater clarity ( unpacking cause and effect)
  • Identify life events which have turned you in some way, shaping your choices and motivations, and how they might be used for story
  •  Explore gentle movement and meditation as ways for developing greater awareness and compassion that soothe the heart and open your writing
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Quiet spaces for walking meditation and writing

Each of us has unique gifts, experiences and stories longing to be made manifest. Please join us for a day of nurturing support in a safe, compassionate environment for you and your writing. Light vegetarian lunch will be provided. If you have specific dietary concerns, please let me know. We will do what we can.

WHERE: 1839 S Halsted Street

WHEN: Friday, May 6, 2016, 9:00am to 4:00pm

CONTRIBUTION: $150 before event , $175 at the door
(Register with a friend and save $20 each!)

REGISTER: (Space is limited to make this an intimate experience)

*mushrooms grow in community, not as separate entities but part one giant, interconnected organism

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Ch-ch-changes


Happy Wednesday everyone! Now that Primary Day is over and all the tears have been spilled or shouts of joy sent up into the trembling air around Chicago and elsewhere on Super Tuesday, it’s time to get back to work.

Briefly, you will begin to see this site transformed to focus solely on meditation related services and support as the name returns to Calm Chicago: Center for Mindfulness & Compassionate Transformation.

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I will continue to blog here about meditation and it’s many benefits and offering information that will help support your practice. I’ll also be offering workshops and retreats and you can learn about those here too.

Anything related to writing (the other hat I wear) will be found on a new site, Hillary-Johnson.com. There you will be able to find everything about the work I do as a writer, editor, writing and creativity coach and events related to writing both for writers and non-writing dabblers, experimenters.

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I also have a Facebook page dedicated to my writing and editing work and would LOVE it if you’d pay a visit there, give the page a “Like” and best of all, contact me to do some amazing work together. My email is: calmchicago [at] gmail [dot] com or you can call my mobile: 312-714-4563

Make sense? I know this has been a lot of change and I thank you all for coming along for the ride. As you know, if you’ve been here before, I do my best to take my own medicine. I’ve been blessed with a period of contemplation and personal transformation and I’m looking forward to sharing more of the fruits of that journey with you all.

Namaste and thank you for stopping by.

I wish you all smooth sailing,

Hillary

SailingPsychologist

 

Be Willing


To constantly rewrite your story. Not just a story that you tell to the page, but the story you were writing that is the narrative of your life.
Be willing to crossout, draw arrows here and there indicating possible mis- directions and options.

  
What you have written already is not set in stone. Not even close.

In fact, who you are is so much bigger than the sum of whatever the story is that you’ve written so far, the things which you have done or not done, choices you have made and not made. 

Actions and inactions carry equal force.

Everything is up for grabs, so just freaking go for it!

If you want something badly enough do whatever it takes to get there even though the process is messy, and sometimes painful. In the end you will know you have done the best you can, and that as Robert Frost would have it (basically) will have made all the difference.

No go on. What are you waiting for?

Feel like you need a permission slip?

Fine then. Here it is:

Please fill in your name in the blank below: 

____________________, has complete and full permission to seize the day, to become whoever she needs to become and do whatever it takes to get there. To follow her passions, color outside the lines. Live the most creative authentic and vulnerable life possible. 

I set me intention for my own truth.

Signed,_______________ 

Date: ____/_____/_______

  

How will you feel…?


 …if you don’t do it?

 
Whatever it is.

You know. 

That thing that makes you feel like you’re on fire with the same passion and energy that lights the stars. 

  

If you’re anything like me, not following that path to passion (and we’re talking positive stuff, nothing that’s going to harm you,) makes you feel somewhere on the shit spectrum. Depending on the day this might be merely a mild disgruntled feeling or on another, like death itself. 

So how about it folks. Can we just agree to NOT do that?  

 Because what would be the point? Mary Oliver asks us in her poem what we are going to do with our one wild precious life… It’s an important question.

Here is what Elizabeth Gilbert has to say about it. 

So dear ones…go for it. Seize the day. Leave no stone unturned. Write your story. Invent that thing. Collect stamps. Do yoga. Whatever!  

Be creative in the way which reflects your most honest, vulnerable and authentic you. 

Unleash that good shit on the world.

  
Now go get it happening. Love to hear from you how it goes.

May the road rise up to meet you.

Exciting Changes at Calm Chicago


Spring is on the Way

Hi everybody! Winter is almost over and spring is on its way. Here in Chicago we just dodged a big storm, a fact for which, I confess, I am extremely grateful. As spring gets closer, all that healing energy which has been storing up all winter is getting ready to shake things loose, so get ready! I am definitely feeling it here and want to share some of what’s up with all of you.

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Change Can Feel Wonky

Have you ever felt really attached to something just because this was the way you had been doing things for a long time?

Have you felt reluctant to change just because the habitual energy of whatever, felt so strong, that you felt like totally overwhelmed and unsure how to even begin to make change?

Me too!

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I Can Relate

I remember when I first thought up the name Calm Chicago. I couldn’t believe it when I looked it up on Dotster and the domain name was actually available! I felt a little smarter and more creative than usual. Like some kind of branding genius!

At the time, it was exactly what felt right. I had set my sights and intention really on helping people locally feel less stressed by sharing meditation, tai chi and qigong with them.

And it all felt very local. Even though we opened our doors in 2008, I still didn’t grasp fully what the internet was going to make possible in terms of engaging with folks from all over the planet.

But then, the website started getting hits from all over the globe. Literally. And I was like What? That’s crazy and amazing! And then, I started getting clients from far away places who wanted to work together over Skype or the phone or something like that.

Now, here we are in 2016, just eight years after opening, and with no advertising budget or anything, and Calm Chicago feels perhaps a little provincial. I think that I’ve been feeling the pull to change the name for about a year honestly. I’ve spent hours, days brainstorming, trying to come up with the perfect name that would somehow magically encapsulate everything I do now and might possibly do in the future. But nothing felt quite right. So I delayed…and delayed.

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Reclaiming My Fundamental Nature

In the middle of all this, I went through a real spiritual crisis. I stopped writing any fiction at all, stopped reading any fiction at all. This after spending my entire life wanting nothing more than to be a writer. After going into major debt to attend Columbia College Chicago and get my MFA in Creative Writing. I felt like all the joy was gradually and surely being sucked out of my life. Clearly something was amiss.

Suffice it to say this was a very dark period in my life. Of course, this taught me a great deal and I’m still sorting it out and recovering. But let’s just say this. My abandonment of my writing self was based on a couple of key misunderstandings:

  1. I thought I had to give up stories to be a good spiritual practitioner. (I didn’t. Duh)
  2. I was operating on years of habit energy that didn’t know how to be in the middle. I’ve been an all or nothing girl pretty much all my life. Think border collie. (Waking up has been a lot about modulating that sweet dog!)

Fortunately, I had the great grace to encounter some supremely wonderful teachers who helped me by throwing out the life line of compassion, particularly of self compassion. Tara BrachDani Shapiro and Scott Dinsmore and his wife Chelsea at Live Your Legend. I’ve also been fortunate to read books by other teachers and writers whose work has been saving my ass for the last year or so and I thank God for them. (Cheryl Strayed, Jack Kornfield, Megan Steilstra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mary Oliver, Mary Karr and more. Later, I’ll create a page with all the books which I’ve been reading which have been so essential to me because maybe they will be good for you too.)

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Taking Action and a Name Change

All the good things I tried to do with Calm Chicago will not go away. But the name will slowly fade into the ether. (Though the url will live on and  re-direct everyone here to the brand spanking new, Hillary-Johnson.com)

I will still teach meditation to individuals, groups and organizations.

I will still offer a free meditation time for our community.

There will be a new emphasis on healing our hearts and minds using creative writing and meditation. This is not just for “writers” but for all of you.

Why?

Because it is so easy to fall into what Tara Brach calls the trance of doing or trance of busyness and to forget who we are and how to be present and live fully and presently in the moment. And that my friends is a loss and heartache we simply do not need and cannot afford.

When we fall into this trance, we can forget as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us in her book Big Magic, that we are inherently creative by nature. We are all makers. It’s our birthright to celebrate this incredible gift of being human with all our opposable thumbs and consciousness, that meant that we were making drawings on cave walls long before agriculture, because we thought making things pretty and expressing ourselves creatively might have felt more important than anything else. (Big breathe) And that, friends, when we give ourselves permission, can create serious magic every day for ourselves and our loved ones and friends. Because then we are happier and get to spread that joy and aliveness everywhere we go.

I want all of you to enjoy the same sense of joy and wholeness that comes from truly inhabiting your true inner self (as I have learned to do) and from enjoying the sense of interconnection with the rest of creation that reflects more accurately the truth of our existence than the place of isolation in which so many of us live.

And that is the work we will all be doing here. My work is inspiring compassionate transformation through creative writing, meditation and movement.

I invite you to join me then. Please, if you feel so inspired, follow the blog, enroll in my classes and workshops, (lots of news coming there very soon), bring friends. Together, lets live as fully, wholeheartedly, creatively and compassionately as we can. We have this lifetime right here and now. Together, let’s make it amazing.

Oh gosh, and we’re going sailing! I almost forgot. This summer will see the first sailing retreats on Lake Superior with full weekends of creative writing, gentle movement, meditation and sailing on a most gorgeous antique sailboat The Manitou.

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