Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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Happiness is in the mind

A great post on something that resonates deeply with me and with the purpose of living a present driven life. We are most certainly in control of whether or not to be at peace and whether or not to listen to the incessant thinking in our minds. Read Karen’s blog for that much-needed reminder and inspiration.

Karen Wilson_ Awaken

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THE MIND IS YOUR HAPPINESS

The thoughts that cross your mind will either make you happy or not. It is not your life or what`s happening in it which makes you happy, but your perception of it. This is the half full/ half empty cup which we talked earlier. If you think negative thoughts, you will not feel good and vice versa. Now you know that you can control your mind. So you understand that you are solely responsible for the quality of your life and your state of happiness. There is nothing wrong in being delighted in dramas, fears and worries if it is a conscious choice, and if somehow that makes you happy. But if it is true happiness that you are after, peace and bliss, then only you can provide it for yourself. No one else can do it for you. No outside circumstances will bring it…

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The Present Driven Life

Thousands of inspirational books have been written to help people realize their “true potential” or find meaning in life. While the concept behind this is intended to encourage and uplift, I have started to notice that this thinking can actually be quite stressful and lead to a lot of self-doubt and depression. When we get lost in the idea of our goals or the results or even our own potential, we lose sight of the action itself taking place in this moment.

What if the purpose of your life is simply to be fully present in whatever it is you are doing right now and have a willingness to enjoy and learn from the life happening to you?

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Many times in my adult life I have asked myself if I am living up to my “true potential.” This happened again recently as I found myself once more shifting gears and changing careers. I found that as I questioned my potential and whether or not I was fulfilling it, I felt stress and angst about life. Then I listened to a Byron Katie podcast and heard something that changed my life. She reminded me that by being 100% present no matter what I am doing — whether it’s washing the dishes, listening to a friend, or teaching a class — I was “reaching my full potential.” I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It seems like many of us struggle at times with this idea of finding a life’s purpose or knowing if we are realizing our full potential. I would like to share a few thoughts from Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer that helped me shift my perspective and feel less stress and anxiety about trying to figure it all out.

  • “It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.”
  • “Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
  • “There may be things to be attained or acquired.…Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
  • “When you are free of ‘becoming’ as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear.”
  • “Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.”
  • “Don’t waste a moment of life trying to make other things happen; appreciate the moments you are given.”
  • “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” 

When we believe we are living a life without meaning or feel anxious when we do not know what our purpose is supposed to be, we can get into a spiral of negativity. But when we make a choice to be present and accept what is, we can begin to fully experience the life we have and, by doing so, lead a “meaningful” life.

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to “I’m Not Living Up to My Full Potential” with Byron Katie for additional perspective on this topic.

What is one thing you have done recently and did the best job you could in that moment? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

 


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A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Overuse

Have you ever found yourself rehashing a conversation you had with someone? Have you ever spent hours wondering if you should say something to a certain person or what might happen if you do? Have you ever spun for days on all of the possible outcomes or scenarios of a specific situation?

As humans, we have evolved this amazing tool called the “mind” and along with it the ability to hypothesize and create stories. This served us very well on the savannah, say, when we saw tracks in the dirt. This desire and ability to figure out where the track leads and what might lie at the end of it probably saved our life. Unfortunately, most of the stories we now create in our minds not only DON’T save our life, they can be quite harmful to our overall health and well-being.

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One of my favorite past-times is to play the “what if” game. Even those of us who are self-aware and seeking peace in our lives can get trapped in this cycle. A certain amount of questioning and analysis can be useful and is the very thing that got me to where I am today. However, as Eckhart Tolle says, “Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking.”

In my experience, we tend to over-analyze things in the hope that we “figure out” what it means or the “right thing” to do. The thing is, we cannot predict the future no matter how good we are at hypothesizing. And, “If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body.” (Tolle) 

So, why not end the incessant thinking and instead remain present and create space with our awareness? Here are a few things you might try:

Become aware of any feeling in your body. Sometimes that is all the data we need to make a decision.
Create space by observing your thoughts, not judging them, and breathe. For more information on this, read The Untethered Soul
Ask yourself “who would I be without this thought?” Byron Katie has some helpful tools as part of “The Work” which teaches us how to inquire our thoughts.

We cannot know for sure what the outcome will be no matter how much we analyze it. We cannot change what we have done no matter how much we think about it. All we can do is be in this moment; create space by bringing awareness to our bodies, thoughts, and feelings (where thoughts and bodies meet); and make choices in the moment that have integrity for ourselves and those around us.

What tools have you found successful to “power off” the mind? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Leave Roller Coasters to the Theme Parks

My sister recently went to a theme park and shared with me that as she gets older she is not able to recuperate as easily after riding a roller coaster. This is how I feel about the emotional roller coasters we choose to ride on a regular basis. While the ups and downs can seem exhilarating (or even necessary) at times, they are actually quite stressful to our bodies and overall psychological state. I don’t know about you, but I would rather ride the lazy river through life and leave roller coasters to the theme parks.

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I have a tendency to feel things strongly and have spent much of my life experiencing the extremes of a situation. There was even a time when I thought I was bipolar. As I get older, I have less tolerance for this dramatic up and down — both in theme parks and in my mental and emotional life. I desire to be at peace as often as possible and not allow any high or low to debilitate me.

Stoics and Buddhists figured this out thousands of years ago — life is full of more ease and joy when there are fewer ups and downs. There will always be happiness and sadness, highs and lows, moments of ecstasy and moments of doubt but being mindful of a few things can help us shorten the gap between these moments in our lives and instill a more constant sense of peace. Here are a few things you can do to help shorten the gap.

Ask yourself if you have expectations or are attached to a specific outcome. Challenge yourself to let go of those expectations. This is another Buddhist principle — the fewer expectations we place on things, the happier (or more at peace) we can be. We could all do well to heed Gay Hendricks’ advice from his book Conscious Living, “By opening your heart to all of life — but clinging to none of it — you are participating in life fully.”

Ask yourself if you are judging the moment or outcome. Try to avoid labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong. It is sometimes hard to know the purpose of a moment until the moment has passed. Byron Katie says, “What you’re believing is what you take with you.” If we believe that this is the worst (or best) thing that could happen to us, then that is what we will experience. We can just as easily believe that this is just the way it is, acknowledge the moment and any emotion we feel, and just be.

Remember that everything is impermanent and that “this too shall pass.” Recite this phrase to yourself when you find yourself at the pit of despair — and even use it as a reality check when you are on Cloud 9. Once we accept that nothing lasts, it is easier to move through this moment to the next.

Now this is not to say that we should not feel happiness or sadness, pleasure or pain. We will feel all of these things many times throughout our life. The goal for me is to acknowledge those emotions as what they are and not let them control me by placing judgment or attachment on them. I now prefer to flow with the ups and downs rather than let them spin me around and turn me upside down.

What is your initial reaction to living a life free of emotional roller coasters? What is your biggest challenge or concern with this concept? Join the discussion by leaving a comment.