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.


Sharon Salzberg’s Street Loving Kindness

Sharon and her gang of creative, amazing, wise and compassionate friends have been making videos about how to practice compassion wherever you go. I just LOVE them.


And they make me feel so inspired to make some of my own featuring Chicago places. Lord knows I feel every day like I need more practice in loving kindness too living here. I confess that at first I was like, WOW, those videos of hers are so awesome and also a little jealous or something because I had JUST BEEN THINKING OF MAKING THE EXACT SAME THING! Augh! And so for a time I did nothing.

But I realized after sitting with it all for a while, that there’s no way two creative people will do the exact same thing at all anyway and that even more importantly, I believe we need as many reminders to practice loving kindness as possible. So, stay tuned. I’m making some videos on how to practice “On the Fly” here in the Windy City.


I’m also offering two new classes that will support your own loving kindness toward your own fine self as well as the rest of the world.

One is a Gentle Tai Chi class, made for all body types and abilities. We’ll meet every Saturday from 3:30-4:40 starting on 11/4. You can sign up via Eventbrite or via Chase QuickPay. (calm chicago at gmail dot com) or email me and we’ll figure out what works best for you! Cash is cool too!

The other thing is Second Sunday Meditation which I co-host with Matt Johnson in our shared space, where he teaches ving tsun kung fu and I do all the things I do, like photography, tai chi, coaching, and all kinds of things which are always growing and evolving. Check out the next one where our theme will be gratitude.

Till then, may all be happy, strong, healthy and at ease.


Lots of love to you, Hillary


Daily Practice is Never a Waste of Time

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


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.


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.


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.


May all be happy. May all be peaceful.

Mindful Metta Mondays In Evanston

So excited, humbled, honored to announce that I’ll be teaching at this amazing place, The Heartwood Center, in Evanston.

Mindful Metta Mondays start Monday June 6th, 7-8pm at the Heartwood Center!
Four-week sessions in June, July and August. $72 for the month or $20 drop in. Registration will open in the next day or so. Each session will integrate meditation and writing to help us cultivate Metta or loving kindness for ourselves and each other.

Slowing Down Quick Tip

Did you ever notice that when you rush through eating your food it feels almost as if you can never get enough? Until all of a sudden when you realize you’ve eaten way past your comfort level and you feel like you’re going to explode.
I’ve realized recently that if I eat very slowly, the amount that I have, however much it is, is enough.

And if what is on my plate, in my bowl is more than I need, I don’t need to eat it all because I notice before I’ve gone past the point of no return.

IMG_0847-2Perhaps I had this insight today just because spring finally seems to be making its presence known, which brings with it an impulse for lightening up and improving health, getting ready for greater activity and better weather.

Whatever the reason, it just struck me today that this was something very simple, so simple as to be nearly invisible. But also important. So I wanted to share this with you all.

Whether we’re talking about how much food we consume or how much pressure we feel to get something done, know that you can pause. Know that you can take some time to see what is really true.

Is the pressure of the deadline real or self-created? Lots of time that feeling of being pushed along, that feeling of needing to rush, really comes from inside ourselves.

  So today, right now even, let’s pause together. 

Can you imagine what your life would be like if once an hour you took a moment to pause and assess how are you doing? 

How are you in relation to the things which are facing you? 

What kind of choices can you make that will be most beneficial for yourself and for others around you?  

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you gave yourself permission to not know all the answers, to just slow down and see how things are rather than having to pretend all the time that we have it all sorted out?

Funny fact:So many of us think everyone else has it all sorted out and that we are the only schmucks who don’t. 

Guess what?

Not true. No one really knows.

And guess what?

It’s ok. No need to know everything.

It’s enough to show up right here and now and do our best to be present, whole heartedly present.

We are enough as we are. Just this.

I wish for you all to be safe, happy, and strong. May you all live with ease. 


Saturday Mindfulness Meditation

Tomorrow is our usual community meditation.

You do not need to believe in anything to meditate.

All you need to do is breathe!

Perhaps you want your heart to feel more open and clear, your mind more steady and stable. Mindfulness can help you with this. Anyone can join us.

from philosophicalanthropology.blogspot.com
from philosophicalanthropology.blogspot.com

I hope you might joint us where ever you are. We are trying for the first time to use Google Hangouts for those who can’t just stroll in the door. Please be patient with us as we try this experiment!


Also, I would like tomorrow’s practice to be dedicated to all those suffering from sickness, injury, pain of the body or mind. Part of my intention will go out to Marcia Brenner, a friend and kick-ass writer, and all around human being, who was struck by a car a week ago while riding her bike in Chicago. She is recovering and brave and is helping create community which as she says, reflects her values. Think all good love things, and sharing, and loving kindness and listening and being healthy and everything awesome and strong.

Please feel free to send us the names of any people you especially want to support in the comments. We do not need to know the details. Only that someone needs to be held in compassionate awareness and love. We will hold the names of those beings in our hearts and send them our love and support.

You may join us in person, via the Hangout, or just sit with us where ever you are, knowing that we are sitting with you, all of us together. The ripple effect of our combines desire for peace will spread everywhere. We will leave the world a little bit better.

And, if you would like to see a great program from CBS featuring meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg, and other great teachers, you can do that here. (I tried to embed it but could not figure out how. Not a techy person. At. All. Sorry.)

May all find peace.

Carpe diem. Carpe pacem.



And as a final post-script, again, I want to thank the Live Your Legend community. You guys are amazing and give me courage. Every. Single. Day. To Scott’s memory. Let’s keep it all going. Namaste.


Loving Kindness Meditation for Sept. 11


Hi there dear friends, It’s Sept. 11. In honor of this day and with a sincere desire, a deeply held wish for all beings to feel the fullness of genuine loving kindness, I thought I’d like to share this  guided meditation with you all. It’s a particular favorite of mine. It was originally created by the great teacher and environmentalist, Joanna Macy. I decided to record my own audio of it because I’d not found it anywhere yet, though surely it must exist somewhere. I know that sometimes, it’s very nice to have someone else guide us through a meditation rather than reading it ourselves. If you enjoy it, and feel so inspired, please feel free to share it freely.

Why does this practice matter? Because like dominoes which children line up so they can watch them tumble over, sometimes in wonderfully complex configurations, one hitting the next and the next until they all fall over, so our lives are like this too. Each moment touches the one which comes immediately after. And so each moment of our lives is most affected by the moment which has proceeded it. Therefore, if we practice to cultivate a heart of loving kindness we will feel a greater peace and calm ourselves, moment to moment. The ripples of our own peaceful hearts are endless. In this way we can do our part, gently and with care to transform the world. We need only begin with our own gentle, tender hearts.

I hope you enjoy this guided meditation. I encourage you to practice it daily. It’s only ten minutes long. This way we strengthen the muscle of our kind open hearts and slowly this sense of compassion becomes just part of the natural way we interact with the world. I know sometimes, it’s not easy. We all struggle. But perhaps this can help us remember how all beings struggle and help us develop a tender care and concern for ourselves and all beings.


May all find peace.