Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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Trouble Hearing What Your Body Has To Say? Try This on for Size

Hmm, I’m kinda hungry. I probably shouldn’t eat anything though—we might be going out later.

Man, I’m tired … but I can’t go to bed now—it’s only 8pm!

It’s amazing how we can overcomplicate even the simplest things sometimes, like listening to our bodies. If you’re hungry, eat; if you’re full, stop; if you’re tired, sleep. Although, since most of us have gotten so out of touch with our bodies it can feel harder than it really is sometimes.

Would you like to listen to yourself more often?

Well, if you want to simplify your life in one small way, try taking these steps to listen to your body more often.

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I have always struggled being in touch with my body. My typical response to, “Are you hungry?” is, “Hmm, I’m not sure.”

This is how it’s been for as long as I can remember. Questioning if I was hungry or not, unsure if I wanted more to drink, forcing myself to stay awake even though I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Some of this was due to simply being out of touch with my body. Most of it was due to second-guessing myself, overanalyzing a situation or flat out refusing to listen to my body in the moment.

As I started practicing mindfulness, I became more aware of what was going on inside of me. Now, I continuously practice not only being aware but also listening to what my body has to say.

In this day in age when distraction is the norm, everyone has an opinion on something and justifications are protocol for living, it is no surprise that so many of us are out of touch.

Not only does being in touch simplify things, it is a healthier option.

Putting down my fork and not eating another bite when my body says it is full keeps me from overeating. Noticing when I’ve had enough to drink and not ordering another keeps me from feeling sick. Sleeping when my body says it is tired gives my body the time it needs to replenish and recharge.

To be in tune with your body, you must:

Be in the moment

If you are busy regretting what just happened or worrying about what might happen later, you are more likely to mistake what is going on inside your body or choose not to listen to it. Instead of worrying that your task list won’t get completed if you go to bed now, try listening to your body and see how much more energy and productivity you have the next day.

Avoid judging the sensation as right or wrong, good or bad

There is nothing wrong with being hungry or full or drunk or tired. These are important cues your body is giving you. Listen to them without judging them. Next time your mind starts to say, “I shouldn’t be hungry, I just ate” or “It’s such a waste to leave so much on my plate” or “if she’s getting another drink I suppose I should, too” listen to your body instead of your thoughts.

Release any expectations or attachment to something being a certain way 

Just because you are hoping to hear from someone about dinner plans doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and eat something now. Just because you always stay drink-for-drink with your friend doesn’t mean you have to today. When we allow our expectations or attachments determine our actions, we are out of touch with our bodies and cause unnecessary stress—on our bodies and on our minds.

Imagine if we all were more in tune with our bodies. Just think what impact that could have on the struggles with obesity, alcoholism, eating disorders, chronic stress, lack of productivity, high rates of burn-out, heart disease—just to name a few.

Next time your body tries to tell you something, tune into that and tune out the thoughts that have up until now been calling all of the shots.

What is the biggest struggle you have in terms of listening to your body? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Presence Matters Has Been Accepted to Publish Articles on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has been accepted to publish articles on elephant journal!

This is a really important step for spreading the message of having peace and ease in life.

I invite each of you, my supportive readers, to take a moment to check out the article—3 Pieces of Common Advice That We Might Be Better off Ignoring.

How many times have you heard one of these before?

“You haven’t lived until you’ve…!”

“Happiness is the key to life.”

“Live up to your full potential.”

In this article, I take a closer look at each of these pieces of advice and explore another perspective that is less harmful and more empowering.

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude …


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If You Read This Blog, Then …

Recently, I explored a few myths that are dangerous to our well-being and practice of presence. Another one of these is the “if …, then …” mentality.

If only I had more money, then I could relax.

If I wasn’t alone, then I could feel lovable.

If my neighbor wasn’t such a jerk, then I could find peace.

By placing our attention on achieving or gaining something in the future, we lose sight of the beauty and importance of the present moment. This constant reaching for a thing, feeling or experience beyond what is happening now causes unnecessary stress in our life and is completely ineffective.

Instead of deceiving yourself with the thought “if …, then …” try “now …, and ….”

We can all achieve our “then” when we replace our “ifs” with “now.”reaching for something brighter

For many years, I fooled myself into believing that if my partner was more affirming, then I would feel loved; or if I got the promotion, then I would feel valued; or if I found a new partner, then I would feel complete. Then I experienced that none of this is true.

My ability to feel loved, valued and complete have absolutely nothing to do with anything or anyone else—it has only to do with me and what I am thinking, believing and focusing on in this moment.

“But shouldn’t I strive to improve things for myself in the future?” 

Well, actually, here are a few reasons why that doesn’t work.

It keeps us from taking responsibility for our lives.

There are very few things we can control in life. One thing we can control is how we respond to each situation. It is up to us to see situations as stressful and limiting or peaceful and opportunistic. To seek peace or opportunity in only certain situations places the responsibility of our reaction to external factors. When we do this, we delegate the one thing in our life that we can control—our attitude.

Only 10% of our satisfaction with life is based on circumstances.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has found that approximately 50% of our satisfaction with life is predetermined by our genetics and only 10% is determined by our circumstances—which is not very much. This means whether I am rich or poor, single or married, in a job I love or not does not make much of a difference. This leaves 40% to intentional activity and choices we make. One of the key ways to intentionally increase your satisfaction is to live in the present moment.

We have evolved to get used to things.

Another finding of Lyubomirsky’s work looks at hedonic adaptation—the fact that humans adapt to joys and sorrows with time. So long as we strive for things outside of ourselves to bring us peace or joy, we will eventually get used to it and be right back at where we started, seeking something else to help us feel that way again, and thus the cycle begins.

Dan Gilbert discovered that we are not very good at predicting what we will like or not like in the future. This affective forecasting is another reason our “if…, then…” mentality is futile—we inevitably adapt to the things we think will be amazing, and we typically bounce back from the things we think will be terrible much more quickly.

When we have a sincere attitude of gratitude and stay present by releasing judgment, resistance and attachment then our level of satisfaction with our life situation no longer depends on circumstances beyond our control.

What is one “then” you can achieve by replacing your “if” with “now”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Give the Gift of Presence: Try These Three Things

I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.

How often have you sincerely been able to say this? Or received this from another person?

Being able to truly be present when listening to someone else can be extremely difficult. It’s one thing to be present with oneself—noticing sensations, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. But, it is a whole other practice to do this same thing when in dialogue with someone else.

As Oprah Winfrey noted, people want to be seen and heard. And it is a great exercise for us to practice presence when given this opportunity.

We all can give the gift of presence when listening by doing these three things.

Attentive Listening

For all of the work I do to live a mindful and present existence, I still find it extremely difficult sometimes to be fully present when listening to another person. I’m either judging what they say or planning what I am going to say next or interrupting them to prove my point or negate what they said.

Sound familiar?

And, yet, none of these things are a practice in presence.

True presence requires me to refrain from judgment and simply observe what is said, felt or heard; to be in the moment and not be thinking about the future; to release expectations or attachment to specific outcomes; and to quiet my ego by detaching from my thoughts and beliefs.

“But who would I be if I didn’t argue that professional football players get paid a ridiculous amount of money?! I need to defend that and make sure everyone knows how I feel about it!”

Or … I could simply notice that thought for what it is—just a thought. And note that this particular thought causes my blood to boil and my heart to race—for some reason. And remember that this thought is not “me” so there is no need for me to defend or prove “myself.”

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another is our presence by truly listening to and hearing them. When we are completely in the moment and can release any attachment to our own beliefs and expectations of another, we can truly hear that person without the need to craft a response or interject with our own ideas or even feel the need to defend.

Next time you are having a conversation and want to practice the gift of presence, try these three things:

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

I know it keeps coming back to the breath but we often forget just how powerful it is. If you are focused on your breath, it’s kind of hard to speak.

Listen to what is said and notice how you react—then let it go. 

Acknowledge any judgmental reactions or remarks that cross your mind, thank your inner voice for sharing and then let the thought go like a cloud dissolving in the sky.

Recognize what is your responsibility. 

It is not your responsibility to “fix” or “change” another person. It is also none of your business what they think or feel. You are responsible for what you believe and how you react. Be aware of when you start taking on responsibility for others and then kindly resign yourself from that job.

It’s not to say that you will always agree with everything everyone says—or need to, for that matter. But when you practice being present and truly listening to another person and learn how to check your ego at the door, you honor that person and yourself while cultivating peace.

What is one thing you can do the next time you engage in a discussion with someone to practice giving your gift of presence? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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3 Things That Happen When You Have Inner Peace

How many times have you heard a child share a dream for world peace? Or read an article on achieving peace between war-torn countries? Or felt a sense of hopelessness when watching the news?

This dream for world peace can sometimes feel like an unattainable goal, and rightly so. How can we expect the world to do what we resist doing ourselves?

“So, what am I to do?” you might ask. 

Well, we must first end the internal war with ourselves and with those around us before we can expect the entire world to follow suit.

By doing this, you will notice three things begin to happen that make “world peace” much more attainable.

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I am a dreamer. I also don’t like conflict. So, the dream of world peace is one that I have had for a very, very long time. History upsets me. The news discourages me. And, I began to wonder if there was any hope anymore.

Then I started to focus on what I can control — my personal peace — and took steps towards that in my own life. The result? The world got a little brighter and my faith was renewed.

What might happen if each of us learn how to be at peace with the woman in line at the grocery store who has more than 10 items in the express lane or with the driver who cut you off or with the feeling of loneliness or with what your life situation happens to be in this very moment?

The world begins to look very different when we have inner peace.

“And, how do I go about having inner peace?” you might wonder.

By not judging, resisting or attaching to what is but simply letting it be. When we do this, three things happen:

We become more compassionate and grateful for our differences.

When we bring a non-judgmental awareness to our own and others’ emotions and actions, we begin to recognize that there is more common ground than first suspected — we all want to end our own suffering — and every exchange with another human is an opportunity, not a threat.

We create space from which to respond rather than react.

When we accept what is, we can mindfully respond from a fully grounded, open place without projecting any expectations on the situation or person involved.

We quiet the ego.

When we are not attached to how things “are” or “should be,” we remove personal attachment to ideologies, beliefs and stories we have told ourselves that often cause conflict.

What if we all spent as much time and energy on our inner peace as we do on demanding peace amongst others?

I suspect peace between neighbors, tribes and countries would be a whole lot easier to achieve if we were all at peace with ourselves first.

“The peace we seek in the world is first found within.” ~ Harold W. Becker

What is one thing you can do in the next 30 days to have more peace in your life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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3 Dangerous Myths We Live By

How many times have you heard one of these before? 

“You haven’t lived until you’ve…!” 

“Happiness is the key to life.”

“Live up to your full potential.”

While these are often said with the best intentions to inspire, encourage and uplift, they judge reality and place unrealistic expectations on people.

What if I told you there was another way to find the “key” to living a full life?

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I’ll be honest; I bought these “truths” hook, line and sinker for many years. Then I became familiar with a different perspective — all we have is this moment. And, by doing my best to live in each moment fully, I no longer need to chase after these falsities to live a full life.

So, what’s the “key”?

Be present in each moment. And, dispel the myths we keep telling ourselves.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these myths and explore another perspective that is less harmful and more empowering. 

“You haven’t lived until you’ve…”

For starters, this statement insinuates that someone currently alive is somehow not “living.” How can that be? Each time we take a breath we are living, right?

It also seems to insinuate that my living isn’t as “worthy” as someone else’s simply because I have not done something. And, well, that’s just plain silly.

I prefer to accept the life experience I have than to compare myself to others or think that somehow my life isn’t worthwhile because I haven’t climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

How about a new phrase? “You haven’t lived until you’ve become aware of and accepted each and every moment as it is.” Still a little dictatorial — and a little wordy, I know — but hopefully you get the point.

Happiness is the key to life.

While I have nothing against happiness and creating more of it, I worry that an over emphasis on one emotion can set us up for disappointment.

Happiness — like sadness and anger — is a part of being alive. And, while it’s great to cultivate more moments of happiness in life, at the end of the day, no matter how hard we try we won’t rid ourselves of the other emotions.

I prefer to be at peace with whatever emotion or situation presents itself in the moment — by observing, accepting and expanding what is — than strive to always be happy (which is impossible).

New phrase? “Peace is the key to life.”

Live up to your full potential.

Again, not intentionally negative, but potentially depression-inducing to believe that if I don’t get that promotion or become the next Oprah or have two kids and a white-picket fence then I’m not living up to my full potential.

How in the world are we to measure our full potential? “Potential” is something yet to occur so we will never know just how big — or small — it can be. So, to strive to fulfill our capacity to become or do something in the future is, well, quite insane.

I’d much prefer to live up to my “full potential” in each moment by being 100% present in whatever I am doing whether that is listening to a friend, doing the dishes, giving a presentation, reading a book or saving a life.

Strive to do this each day of your life, and you can confidently say that you are “living up to your full potential.”

Okay, so you might be thinking, “Can’t this chick just relax and not take everything so seriously?!”

Well, no. I can’t.

It is getting clearer and clearer to me how much unnecessary suffering we cause on a daily basis. And, much of this comes from our beliefs that our lives aren’t “good enough,” that we aren’t “happy enough” or we haven’t achieved everything we “should have.”

The silver lining?

We can all live full, peaceful lives by dispelling these myths and replacing them with living in the moment and accepting what is.

What other myths might be harming our experience of life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.