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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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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Sunday, May 3: Three Minds


IMG_8634Pinky the cat woke me up early for food and though I felt awake, I confess, I went back to bed just to lay there and feel the soft sheets and breathe. Matt made coffee. The breeze was sweet coming through the window, pushing at the drapes. White blossom petals spun down from the trees dotting the dark earth below. Bird song – a spring morning. One of the finest things there is.

After breakfast, Pinky has resumed his place on the bed to digest and yawn.IMG_8631

This morning’s study was more reading from, “Only Don’t Know,” teaching letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn (Thanks to Amanda Palmer for the recommendation. You were right about this teacher. Amazing. Many, many thanks. Here’s her website, so you can go exploring for yourself.) The book is very good. Teaching very simple, sharp and full of surprises. I think I like this Zen.

I read about three minds: lost, one, and clear.

The lost mind is easily afraid and upset by any little thing in external conditions or situations. This kind of mind has no center and so gets tossed about. Living this way, in my own experience, makes for one very unhappy life. A constant roller coaster. In lost mind, our happiness or unhappiness, we pin to the outside. The outside is always changing. What can we do then but get yanked up and down like a rag doll?

One mind it steady and without fear. The example Venerable Seung Sahn gives is the steady mind which may arise from chanting. Nothing can upset this One mind.

But clear mind, this is something different altogether. The clear mind is also unafraid, but it is also compassionate. This way leads to saving all beings from suffering. In the example form the book, a robber with a gun confronts all three types of mind. The lost mind is terribly afraid and can do nothing. The one mind is not perturbed. The clear mind person is not afraid of the robber and asks how much money the robber wants. The answer is, “All of it!” So the clear mind person gives all the money they have. But this person also wears a sad mind, sorry to see the robber doing something which will only harm the robber in the long run. So, the clear-minded person feels sad and wears a face of compassion. This confuses the robber, who expects to see only fear. We can hope the robber will remember this compassionate face later and begin to understand that they only create suffering for themselves.

Reading this, I realize how little I know and it’s okay. I keep trying. I was thrown off my center this week by a change in conditions but realize now, that it has nothing to do with me and I too can wear the face of compassion and hope we can all see the things we do which cause harm and let them go as soon as possible. Be returning to my own center, I am free and happy. I will try all day to let go of I, me, and mine. This small i which makes me so unhappy. Real liberation is everywhere. Every thing is our teacher. We can be fine anywhere and remember compassion.

How important to keep our center. No matter what happens, we become upright again just like the little toy, the Dharma Toy or Daruma Toy which always pops back upright no matter what. I think this means also, that whatever we are doing, we only do that. Then all unhappiness disappears. There is only the action. Only the doing.

A writer wrote to Venerable Seung Sahn and described trouble with his writing. Sometimes, I have this trouble too. Maybe, if you a writer, you do too. I think and we’ll explore this in the upcoming Zen and the Art of Writing classes, that when it’s time to write, just write. There’s no worrying about good or bad as the center stays. Then all other ideas drop away and there is only the writing itself.

Later, there will be time to “think” about the writing. But I think, a clear mind will recognize the quality and know what to do.

May all find peace.

Saturday Coffee and Zen


Here is today’s reading from  

Every day that I read this book, something grabs my attention. Makes me focus. Startles me somehow. It feels like the pleasant smack of truth. 

So, here for your consideration is today’s smack:  

 

I know I’m a great over complicater. This reminds me that the thing that I crave most, a sense, a feeling of connection with others and with the rest of the world is simply a matter of fully paying attention. 

So, this is going to be my practice today. I don’t want to “half-experience things” I don’t want to carry the weight of my previous experiences because generally my feelings or thoughts about experiences can be negative. I want to put it all down and just do it. I want to feel complete, don’t you?

May all beings find peace. May we all help alleviate the suffering for all beings. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’d love to hear what you think.

 

#ThisWillChange


No matter what we have going on, it’s easy to forget that nothings stays. Especially in times of stress, coming back to the moment however we can, can be so healing. As we arrive in presence and drop our judgements and criticisms of self and others, which are often kinda harsh. (I know. I’m a pro at it!) Those harsh opinions can only fence us into fixed ideas which may feel real but are not true.

photo by Hillary Johnson Feb. 2015. No use without permission
All photos by Hillary Johnson Feb. 2015. No use without permission

When my own mind is too busy for sitting meditation, I often go for a walk instead, focusing on the steps I take, one by one, or on the breathing or just seeing in the moment, without labeling or judging. Trying to keep a beginner’s mind, that sees and doesn’t get caught up in concepts. Just staying aware, awake as much as I can to the flow of the moment. Right here and now.

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Opening to what is.

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Giving myself permission to take a break for my own well being.

When was the last time  you did that for yourself?

It’s not selfish, it’s self care.

If we don’t care for ourselves, we can not be of much good to anyone else either.

Love yourselves friends.

May all find peace.

#ThisWillChange

New Talks on Peace


Please give a listen to talks from my teacher, Master Ji Ru (Shifu) on how to develop a more peaceful life for yourself and everyone else too!

The Body as Gateway


I’ve been thinking lately. Dangerous, I know. I’ve also been hitting the gym.

No bootcamp or insanity. Just nearly daily showing up for some aerobic work and some light weights. Fitness walking with my husband, which is a real challenge, because for every one of his steps, I need to take like, three. But we’re learning how to adjust for each other. It’s fun.

English: an exercise of upperarms and forearms
English: an exercise of upperarms and forearms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I do this? Because it really has been hitting me how much it seems that we tend to treat the body as if it was just a convenient vessel for toting our brains around. But, the body is so much more and sometimes, it can feel like so much less. When we are in even basic shape or fundamentally fit, the body is our gateway to so much enjoyment in life. It just makes doing everything easier and more pleasurable, from getting out of bed in the morning to being with friends and family, even going to work! But when the body is out of shape, unfit, it affects everything we do in the negative. Everything becomes physically harder and more tiring. In this state, our mind can not function well either, because the un-ease of te body pulls the mind down, constantly pestering it with a pantheon of troubles and pains.

Of course, the mind screams at us then, suffering the terrible injustice of physical suffering. And we tend to identify with our physical suffering, don’t we? We become our un-ease or dis-ease. We say things like, “My arthritis, my diabetes, my aching back,” and so on. And that, changes us from merely having some physical discomfort to full-on suffering.

Svenska: Dramatiska teatern i Stockholm, mask ...
Svenska: Dramatiska teatern i Stockholm, mask av Carl Milles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alas.  So what’s a poor body to do?

A couple of things maybe. How about some modest exercise and meditation?

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Meditation (Photo credit: holisticgeek)

Through mindful attention to the body we can rediscover that the body can be our friend again. We need to proceed, step by step and we need to have a goal. I believe in gentle challenge, reasonable goals that slowly take us towards our destination. While in meditation, we let go of ideas about getting anywhere, because what we need is actually already right here inside us, with getting the body fit (as with other sorts of goals) it helps to know where you want to go.

How you define that is up to you. Maybe you want to climb the stairs without strain and feeling winded. Maybe you want to lose weight. I’d suggest that even if you think you want to lose a lot of weight that you start by breaking your big goal down into smaller, manageable goals so you can see, measure, know your gradual success. It’s not wrong to aim high, but realize that even Olympic athletes get to such levels of achievement through years of steady, determined application of effort of the body and mind.

And where does meditation fit in all this? Very simple, a little meditation helps you let go of stress by giving you a chance to stop thinking all those stressful thoughts, worries and obsessions. It’s also a lot easier to let your mind go quiet after some physical activity. Just sit and breathe. Try to just be aware of the feelings of the body, just as they are. Sensations that will come and go. Try to breathe and observe the sensations without any judgement of like or don’t like. See if you can resist the urge to scratch every itch. Wiggle in place. When I first started to meditate, I felt awfully itchy suddenly. No sudden bug attack, only the mind wanting to distract me from what I was doing.

With this, as with the physical activity, start small. Try one minute. Then two. Go for three if you are up to it. Step by step. Add time as you feel comfortable.

So, be patient. Be determined. Set a schedule for your exercise and meditation plan. Then, go for it. Step by step. Take action and as the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world.

English: an exercise of abs
English: an exercise of abs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me know how it’s going? What works for you? How do you keep moving toward your goals?

And if you think you need some help, give me a shout. I’m glad to help. You can try a group class if you like or a private or semi-private training for your body and your mind.

Thanks so much for stopping by. If you like, join other savvy web travelers, and subscribe!