Daily Practice is Never a Waste of Time


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May all be happy. May all be peaceful.

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16 Reasons Meditation is Good For You


Benefits of Meditation: a Short List

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Meditation…

  1. reduces stress
  2. improves focus and concentration
  3. supports healthy living through greater awareness of body and mind
  4. reduces reactivity
  5. increases capacity for flexibility and adaptability
  6. reduces rigidity of thinking
  7. increases creativity across the board
  8. reduces relationship stress by increasing empathy and compassion
  9. increases capacity for emotional regulation
  10. reduces anxiety, depression
  11. increases happiness
  12. makes it easier to deal with inevitable difficulties (acceptance)
  13. slows aging – maintaining great mental sharpness and reducing worry lines
  14. increases heart lung (cardiovascular health) as we reduce stress
  15. supports a strong immune system
  16. improves overall well-being

Not bad for sitting still and attending to the breath! And, unlike many medications, there’s no unpleasant side effects.

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Happiness: An Introduction. Registration Open Now


Super excited to be moving into 1839 S Halsted St!

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To celebrate and help you get through the holidays less stressed, we’re offering…

Happiness: An Introduction to MBSR*

Mindfulness Meditation, Movement and Creating!

*Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Winter 2015-16 DATES:  Next Class starts Dec. 5!

Bring your open heart and desire to see what transformation eight weeks of mindfulness can bring you.

1.5 hour classes will include guided meditation, mindful movement and creative work.


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 $160 (just $20/class!) 

Registration and payment required by November 14 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: 10-11:30am Saturdays starting Dec. 5th

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 8-week 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.

One-on-one versions of our 8- week Zen and the Art of Living are by appt.

Thanks so much for stopping by and please, share with friends and family.

Wishing you well as you find your true and joyous way.

Hillary

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Happiness Right Now VS Planning for the Future


Good morning friends, Happy Monday. I know Mondays can be kind of pressure cooker-feeling as we leap into our weeks together. So, first of all, maybe we can pause for one minute together and just breathe.

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Okay, so now, I just wanted to check in with you all about a couple of things that have been on my mind a lot lately, especially the last few days and certainly this morning.

One.

I think that I like, perhaps, many of us, frequently struggle with discerning between different ideas about happiness. And these different ideas, can cause us some suffering.

On the one hand, I, like you perhaps, want to set goals, accomplish things. I have the idea of creating a happy life in which I live to my fullest potential and help others reach their fullest potential too.

Two.

Then, on the other hand, I know from my experience meditating and from studying the very good guidance the Buddha offered (as well as other spiritual teachers throughout time), that our only really possibility of happiness exists right here and now, is this moment. Not the many gazillions of moments which have already flown past and not the ones which aren’t here yet. Just now.

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Here is what Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, “no death, no fear”:

Each of us has a notion of how we can be happy. It would be very helpful if we took the time to reconsider our notions of happiness, We could make a list of what we think we need to be happy: “I can only be happy if…” Write down the things you want and things you do not want. Where did these ideas come from? Are they reality? Or are they only your notions? If you are committed to a particular notion of happiness, you do not have much chance to be happy.

 Happiness arrives from many directions. If you have a notion that it only comes from one direction, you will miss all of these other opportunities because you want happiness to come only from the direction you want. (Emphasis mine) …

…Please remember that your notions of happiness may be very dangerous. The Buddha said happiness can only be possible in the here and now. So go back and examine deeply your notions and ideas of happiness. You may recognize that the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life are enough. Then happiness can be instantly yours.

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So, perhaps what we need to remember, amongst other things, is to try and develop a more nuanced approach to our happiness. Realizing that indeed the conditions for happiness are present right here and now. That our happiness doesn’t depend on outer conditions. We can practice to adjust our attitude to conditions and be okay with what is, right here and now.

That doesn’t mean we have to drop all goal setting or planning. We don’t have to stop dreaming of a future in which we feel perhaps, even more passionate about our work and how we are making a positive impact on the world. But we don’t sacrifice our present to that future. We realize that we are on the path already, no matter where we are. We try to see clearly into conditions, recognizing our happiness here and now and building our lives at the same time.

Make sense? What do you think? Where do you struggle with this process? Or where do you feel like you can really exist in that balance? I’d love to hear from you. And know, friends, that I’m out here working on it too.

May all find peace.

Live your legend.

Carpe  diem. Carpe pacem,

Hillary

Classes at the American Rhythm Center June 8-Aug 16


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Classes at the American Rhythm Center

Summer Session: June 8 – August 16

Yang Tai Chi (24 form) Tuesday 5:30-6:30pm

Perfect for beginners or experienced tai chi players. The world’s most popular form of tai chi is easy to learn yet maintains the traditional feel of longer and more complex forms.

We’ll focus on how to apply the lessons of tai chi to reducing stress and increasing flow in your every day life. This class is perfect for anyone wanting to shed stress, worry, anxiety and gain greater well-being, happiness and enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. You’ll gain mental and emotional flexibility, an overall softening of the heart/mind, as well as better balance and immune response! No special gear or prior experience required, though soft soled shoes are recommended.

Meditation Happy Hour Fridays at lunch noon-1pm

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 and guided meditation. 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.

Call to sign up now! You can drop in or buy a ten-class pack! First week free.

Free-4-All 2015! June 8 – 14!
Click Here for FREE Class Schedule!

A one-time class card registration fee is required in order to purchase the 10-class or course cards.  You can click here to be redirected to a MindBody shopping cart to pay the card registration fee. You can continue to add classes directly in MindBody.

Or sign up for a single class or series of classes directly from the schedule below.
Registration may also be done at the studio.  Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the start of class to register.

American Rhythm Center
at The Fine Arts Building
410 S. Michigan, 3rd Floor
(312) 922-1272

Two Hours to Greater Happiness and Presence


  

After two hours of mindfulness and some great life hacks from the world of positive psychology, here’s what this student wrote about how she was feeling and what she accomplished in the two hours:

  
I love doing this work. Seeing someone blossom and awaken to the possibility of real authentic happiness, connection to the rest of the wide and amazing world, and infinite joy is so, so amazing.

Thank you universe! 

May all find peace.  

 

Happiness Hacks for Women


They’re Back!

Recently, I’ve received a LOT of requests to make this workshop available again. Check it out! Share with a friend or colleague who just needs a little help to make their lives super awesome.
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Happiness Hacks For Women: A Ruby Slippers Workshop

Dates:  By Appointment

Class Info

It may come as no surprise to you that women feel chronically under-empowered. However the key to changing that is in our own hands. Come learn practices, tailored just for you, that will help you feel authentically more yourself, more comfortable, more empowered, confident and strong.

Some of what you’ll learn:

  • How to change your brain’s chemistry for the positive
  • How to be authentically more confident by changes body language and hormones
  • How to reduce stress by embracing change
  • How to increase happiness that leads to success
  • Simple daily tools for happier living
  • About the connection between compassion and happiness

Includes course materials. Two 2.5-hour sessions. Workshops can be arranged just for you or for a group’s special interests or concerns too. We can do this course in person or online, by the way, via Skype or Google Hangout.

What to bring

Notebook/journal and something to write with.

Tuition: $250