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.

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Two Step Walking Meditation


Metta in this Moment
Metta

Though we tend to tumble headfirst into the next moment out of sheer force of habit, we can train ourselves to pause in the midst of our busy days. We can ground ourselves in the midst of stressful situations by bringing awareness down to our feet, feeling the earth supporting us. Grounding ourselves this way, we’re more able to handle whatever difficulties arise with more grace and increased empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.

Mindfulness Practice with the Feet
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Bring your awareness to your feet. Feel them in your shoes. See if you can feel each toe on its own without wiggling them. It’s okay if you can’t. We’re not seeking any special experience. We just want to see what’s going on right here and now.

Now – Feel the shoes gently holding your feet. Next allow yourself to feel that the sole purpose of the earth, it’s only job, is to hold you up. Rest in that awareness.

2012_0506_images_10a_berry_conversation_wendell_portrait(The great Wendell Berry)

Simple Walking Meditation

Walking requires a constant shifting of our weight from foot to foot, an act we rarely pay much attention to. As we shift the weight, it’s as if we fill one leg and empty the other, of weight, of energy, however you like to think of it. This occurs as we place first one foot down in front of us to step forward and then the next. Let’s slow this process down for a few steps to attend mindfully to the many sensations of walking.

  1. As you step forward, place your foot down ever so softly, feeling that initial contact with the ground or floor. Slowly begin to shift your weight into your forward foot, feeling it supporting you as you fill the leg up.
  2. Be aware at the same time, of your rear foot and leg. Feel how the rear leg gets emptier and emptier; the foot releasing contact with the ground.

Repeat for a few steps, up to ten.

Walking is actually a wondrous act. Let’s enjoy it together. Let’s be grateful for our capacity to walk. Let’s take a moment of gratitude for our feet and legs.

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Pausing is Possible Anytime

You can practice this simple walking meditation any time. It’s a very good practice before any stressful events like meetings, difficult conversations etc. Try pausing next time you’re heading somewhere. The simple act remembering that you can pause and doing it, even for a moment or a few steps, is incredibly powerful.

Guided Meditations


People have all kinds of ideas about guided meditations and this blog will hardy be an authoritative response to all the ideas out there. That would be not only impossible but a waste of everyone’s time.

I can tell you this however. For the beginner, guided meditations can be extremely helpful. Because meditating alone in your room can feel like jumping into the deep end of a very choppy, stormy ocean without any support, a life jacket at least, a little raft.

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It can feel this way for the experienced meditator as well. Maybe life’s been handing you a particularly rough patch and though you’ve been meditating for years, you’re just not feeling it.

Maybe you’ve been sitting with your father who’s dying, maybe you’ve lost your job or are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift in your career, which you thought would last forever, and now it feels like you’ve got nothing to stand on.

Maybe you’re dealing with a terrible disease, acute or chronic and you’re just not even sure who you are anymore.

Maybe you’re just like the rest of us poor slobs wondering why and how it is that even the most joy-filled moments of heart splitting wonder seem to have this little nugget of sadness embedded in them. Maybe you’re one of those folks who feels you’re always waiting for the other shoe to fall.

On top of that you may be thinking, I should get a grip, I’ve been meditating for (insert number of months, years meditating here) I should be able to settle my mind down. I’m a terrible meditator. 

Or, maybe you’re a meditation teacher and you’re in that place where even the coach needs a little extra support and love and you think crap, who can I ask for help? This is SO embarrassing!  Nonsense darlings! Now and then all of us need some help, a little extra support, for all kinds of thing, including our own self care. In fact, research shows that actually asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH. So there’s that.

Let me tell you dear ones, you’re not a terrible meditator. You’re just feeling overwhelmed. There’s no shame in getting a little assistance.

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So, no matter who you are and how long you’ve been sitting and meditating, it is okay. If you feel like you need a permission slip – here it is.

Go ahead and use guided meditations when you want to. Sometimes it’s just nice to let someone else drive the bus, right?

When you feel ready to sit in silence, on your own, you’ll know.

Lots of people, all over the globe practice alone but they may also sit with a group from time to time, some weekly. Many folks also make regular check-ins with a meditation teacher. To that end, I strongly encourage you to find a teacher somewhere and study with them. It’s highly beneficial to have someone whose been down the road ahead of you to whom you may turn to ask questions and talk things over.

In support of all that, I’ve made a new page on the site offering some free guided meditations which I’m recording. You’ll also find links to the sites of several wonderful meditation teachers out there who offer audio, readings, books, retreats and so forth. Please check it all out. Explore. Find what works for you.

Please share the link to this page with friends, colleagues, loved ones. Anyone who might benefit from a little friendly mediation support.

Sail on friends. Sail on. Life’s just a series of tacking points. No direct line. Let’s enjoy the journey together.

Namaste,

Hillary

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Simple Guided Meditation 


I’ve noticed in the past few years, that many times when speaking with people who are new to meditation, that they have a lot of ideas about how one must practice that are not quite accurate. The sad thing is, that these ideas then serve as barriers to them giving meditation a fair try.

  
In fact the practice of meditation is fundamentally quite simple. John Kabat- Zinn says that really all we are trying to do is to pay attention, right here and now, in a particular way, that is nonjudgmentally.

Formal meditation practice just means that we’re doing this practice of paying attention to our moment to moment experience, bringing our awareness to what’s going on right here and now, on purpose. We are intentionally bringing our mind into the moment instead of all the places that usually goes. ( Worrying about the pat and future…sometimes quite endlessly.)

  This activity does not necessarily require any special posture or extraordinary flexibility. Our goal is to be alert so that we can wake up to reality. I think this is where some of the misunderstandings about posture come from. Simply we want our body to be in a position which is going to promote our awakening. This means if we were slumped over, the signal that we’re sending to the brain is that it’s time to nap not wake up.

  You can meditate sitting or standing. You can also meditate when walking or doing other activities but I’ll address that another time. For now let’s focus on sitting meditation.

You can meditate sitting on a special cushion, a meditation bench, or whatever chair you happen to have at home.

I hope that you will try this short guided meditation that will help you get into a comfortable, upright and alert posture that will best support your meditation practice for today.

Please know that there is no right or wrong way to do this. By which I mean to say, that of course your mind is going to wander. That is the nature of mind. The mind is like a puppy it wants to run around and investigate everything. We would never holler at a little puppy for doing what comes naturally. When the puppy of the mind wanders off, your only job is to do your best to notice, recognize, acknowledge and gently return to the breath. No matter how many times you need to do this, each time meeting your mind wandering with tenderness and compassion.

 Basic guided 15 minute meditation  

Free First Saturday Meditation


Join me for a free community meditation this Saturday. If it’s nice we’ll practice outside in the lovely garden.

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Open to all regardless of experience. Perfect for you folks out there who have thought about meditation but wonder what it is, if you can even do it (hint: YOU CAN!) All you need is your body, heart and mind and the determination to come with an sense of open curiosity. Also for experienced practitioners. Guided vipassana or insight mediation, which uses the breathe as a guide into our present moment experience.

I recommend bringing a notebook or your favorite journal with you. We do a little writing after we sit to check in with ourselves, noticing small changes, bringing awareness into consciousness.

We have some meditation benches and cushions but if you have your own, please bring it with you.

May all find and know peace.

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Take a break to make your writing better


Maybe you’re working on some content marketing, a press release, blog, white paper, or that piece which is finally thank God, your big break at The New Yorker, an essay for your favorite journal, your novel or short story. We all know the feeling. There is a deadline. It looms. The clock ticks louder and louder. Emails arrive from the boss, the client, the agent, asking when you’ll be delivering the work.

You look back at the computer. The empty white screen glares, mocking you. You wonder, with a sinking feeling in your gut and perhaps a racing of your heart,where’s that go-getter, that deadline meeting genius you told them you were?

At times like this, we tend to stay glued to the desk, keep longer hours, drink more caffeine, energy drinks, work harder to make something, anything out of our fingertips, our keyboard. We believe that if we just keep our butts glued to the chair that we can somehow force what is needed out onto the page.

And maybe, sometimes, that could be true. Maybe we can get something out. But really, how good is it? Work made this way doesn’t come from fire in the belly or a passionate heart. It gets born but feels dead. And the process is no fun. At. All.

And worse still, this kind of brain-freeze and forced march reaction can become a pattern. It’s a sort crazed, creative death-spiral. We think perhaps being an accountant might be more fun.

At this point you may need a major intervention. A real break. Some way to break up the rocks and crust of bad habitual patterns and rediscover the real beating life buried under all that frustration.

For a major re-boot, I recommend a creative retreat of some kind; one that will allow you to let go of all the stress to which you’ve become addicted against your better judgement and which will help you rekindle that flame of creativity and joy, releasing the inner creative genius which always knows how to play, experiment, dance with a devil may care, throw caution to the winds zest for being alive.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hop a plane for 16 hours to an exotic locale (though if you have the time, go ahead on and enjoy). There’s a number of things you can do other than that.

Here’s a few ideas.

Some are in the moment things you can do and others involve a greater commitment of time. Each is fundamentally based on the idea that stepping away from the task at hand is the best medicine and further, that you engage in something which occupies the mind in a manner both relaxed yet focused.

You’ll note that none of these involves technology or media of any kin,d as they tend to create more stress and increase distractibility. I mean, for goodness sake, think of how fast your Twitter feed spits out new stuff at you. All those banner notifications.

  • Go for a nice mindful walk in which you completely and luxuriously immerse yourself and your senses in connecting to your moment by moment experiences. (One of my favorite writers who I am told, goes on a walk daily, is Paul Auster. It certainly seems to work for him.)
  • Do some exercise. Maybe you’re a runner or like to do yoga or swim. It doesn’t matter so much what it is you do, but that you fully engage in what you are doing.
  • Do as author Dani Shapiro suggests and fill your ears with beautiful language by reading something truly magnificent. I also advocate reading aloud and really letting that gorgeous language soak in. Roll around in all that amazing sound. I like to read things which may be related even slightly by subject matter to what I’m working on, but sometimes letting go completely and just reading some poetry can be a powerful way to throw the switches. Get some Rumi. Hafiz. Robert Frost. Mary Oliver. Connect with your spiritual side even for a few verses.

There is a channel between voice and presence,
a way where information flows.

In disciplined silence the channel opens.
With wandering talk, it closes. 
-Rumi

For something which will offer you a more profound opportunity for change try a local retreat of some kind where you can unplug from your devices, relax, retrain your mind, and open the heart, creating space for compassion and creativity.

Check out what might be offered near where you live and work. You may find options that extend from anywhere from a few hours to a whole weekend or even a week. I recently attended an amazing retreat at Kripalu  for a weekend of writing and meditation with Dani Shapiro. I came back a changed woman.

If you’re in Chicago or thereabouts, you might want to come to one of these.

What works for you when you’re feeling stuck? Love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Write on.

Hillary

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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