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.


Being Your Own Best Friend:Booting Anxiety & Building Compassion

Being Your Own Best Friend:Booting Anxiety & Building Compassion

The rose doesn’t strive to be beautiful. It just opens.

This is one of series of Calm Chicago Chill Out sessions, which bring very small groups of people together for self care, listening to each other and ourselves, healing, and exploring the possibilities of living fully, authenitcally and from a sense of grounded peace and interconnection. The cost is low to make it super accessible. I invirte you to join in right away while there’s still spots.

We’ve all seen thos folks who always seem calm no matter what’s going on, right? Whether it’s in the midst of some crazy crazy weather, or a major deadline at work, or the El has broken down and sitting on the tracks forever, or dealing with major medical or health stuff. They just seem to be able to surf through it. While we are quietly or not so quietly cursing and secretly hating them, and knowing that for sure, we sish that was us but that we are the sort of person who is not CALM or self possessed and never will be.

If anxiety (social or otherwise) is a thing in your life and you’re tired of that being so; if you’ve heard about the importance of self care and compassion but can’t seem to get any, this workshop is for you.

Abiding calm and self love are not things that we can just wave a wand and BOOM, you have infinite amounts of them but you can learn how to cultivate them through simple practices that you can do at home, in the bathroom, in the car, on the El, everywhere you are in your day to day life. We’ll use tools from mindfulness, yoga and positive psychology, to give you the direct experience of learning how to get better at dealing with anxiety and bulding up your self love so that you can really become your own best friend. You’ll leave knowing how to practice these outside of class so that you can keep building those skills and feeling stronger and better day by day.

You will learn:
We’ll take these 2.5 hours to focus on supporting and encouraging you with specific exercises to help you feel better right here and now and making sure you know how to take the practices home with you with confidence.

How to practice simple awareness that bring you back to the moment with love
How to practice “on the fly”
How to identify what makes you feel great and get more of that good stuff
How to give yourself love and then spread that around to help create peace inside and out in the world
Quick tips for pausing amidst the chaos of life and emotions

Who should come to this?
You. Anyone who wants to be able to be able handle lifes inevitable ups and downs with more grace and ease; wants to feel safer, shappier, stronger no matter what is going on.

Who’s teaching this?
Hillary Johnson is a photographer and mindfulness and creativity coach who’s been leading retreats and helping people feel better and companies work better since 2008. She’s into travel and helping people feel authentic interconnection between themselves and all things. Also border collies, cattle dogs and bicycling.

Register with PayPal to: calmchcago at gmail dot com

Saturday Meditation Happy Hour

Feeling stressed?

Do you sometimes wonder how you got here, when driving, taking the El, or walking from one room to another because you realize you have no idea where you’ve been?

Do you want to feel more inner happiness and peace?

Do you want to feel better able to deal with life’s many difficulties and challenges?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Most of us spend between 50-95% of our days lost in mind-wandering. Meditation can help.

Jack Kornfield advises us that each aspect of our meditation will open in its own time, like a flower.

Join us to discover what he means. In this gentle class, you will learn to simple and profound methods for living a life of greater presence and happiness.

You’ll also:

  • increase focus and concentration
  • adapt better to change
  • learn to deal with difficult emotions
  • increase compassion for your self and others
  • see the bigger picture
  • and much more


WHEN: Saturdays 9-10am
WHERE: 1839 S Halsted
TUITION: $80/month or Drop in tuition $25/class

And please, bring friends!


Thanks. May all find peace, Hillary


Free 1st Saturday Community Meditation

Are you feeling stressed, trying to balance life, family, work?

Do you feel like sometimes you’re just skimming life or missing out on something critical?

Do you sometimes feel like you’ve lost something you once had and can’t quite put your finger on it?


Meditation can help you regain your compassionate, patient, adaptable center.

You will learn how to:

  • handle stress with greater ease
  • discover the true source of your unhappiness or suffering
  • understand how the causes of suffering operate
  • find the way out of suffering
  • cultivate step by step practices that support peaceful and happy life
  • be more present for your daily life
  • deal with difficult emotions
  • to recognize harmful and beneficial habits
  • let go of harmful habits
  • cultivate healthy habits
  • and much more

We offer free community meditation every first Saturday of the month.


Donations gratefully accepted.

WHERE: 1839 S Halsted

WHEN: 1st Saturday of each month 9-9:45 am

OTHER: Please refrain from wearing perfumes and colognes. Wear soft comfy clothing. Layers are good.


Spring Break Stress-Buster

job stress photo
Do you answer yes to any of these?

Are you a college student feeling a bit stressed out?
Do you sometimes have trouble concentrating right when you need your mental focus most?
Do you try to “cram” before tests?
Do you sometimes feel anxious about all the work load – balancing school with work, friends and family?
Do you want to end this semester with your best work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this mini-retreat is for you.

Studies repeatedly show that students who meditate do better on tests of all kinds. They also feel less negative stress and maintain better over all health.


Learn to adapt, refresh, succeed
Designed specifically to address the needs and pressures of college students to help you complete your semester in the best way possible, the retreat is for beginning meditators with no or little experience, and more experienced practitioners.

You will enjoy:

  • transformative morning or movement
  • meditation
  • writing
  • unleashing your full potential
  • leave feeling relaxed and alert
  • You will learn strategies for developing your powers of focus and concentration
  • how to take tests with less stress
  • cultivate self compassion.

    Come in comfortable soft clothes, bring a yoga mat if you have one, and a notebook and something to write with.

    WHEN: March 26, 2016 9-10:30 am
    WHERE: 1839 S Halsted St
    TUITION: Just $25
    QUESTIONS? Call Hillary at 312-714-4563 or email me at calmchicago [at]gmail [dot]com

    Advance registration requested. https://squareup.com/market/hillary-johnson-2
    lease share with your favorite college students!




Narrow Mind

A narrow mind makes us crazy and angry.

A wide open mind allows us to be free and happy.  

First I read something about this in a book by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

Then I came to know this truth directly. When I look I see this lesson literally everywhere.  
It makes my life easier each time I remember it.

Thankfully don’t know mind allows me to rediscover this each and every moment afresh, without judgement.

Remembering is the trick! And if I forget? No problem. Just begin again. We can all do this. 

No judgement. For real. 

It’s very freeing.

What’s your experience? Please share in the comments below. 

Wishing you all peace and happiness no matter what. 

Make today amazing.

Carpe diem. Carpe pacem.


Notice Ceasing

We all notice right away when the shit hits the fan.


I ask you though…

When was the last time you noticed tension or aggravation fading away?

Today try this practice.

Anytime today when you notice feeling unhappy about something, some situation, interaction, physical, mental or emotional experience… try observing the feelings you have in the body, the heart or in the mind and just watch. Can you also notice when it begins to fade away?

Doing this helps us deal with stress more easily. And, is a great reminder that whatever is going on is not permanent because we can observe that fact directly for ourselves.

Which we can easily enough forget. But the truth is EVERYTHING comes and goes.

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you. Wishing you all peace and happiness dear ones.