Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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Being Mindful Doesn’t Mean Not Making Mistakes

Have you ever gotten frustrated with yourself for not being as calm and centered as you would like to be?

I have. Quite a bit.

I often forget that mindfulness is not just another thing to “get right.” Somehow I get it in my head that just because I practice presence that means I will always behave in a mindful way. That I can “master” mindfulness. No pressure or anything.

But Eckart Tolle reminds us that as soon as we notice we are not being present, we are present. That is the whole point.

Mindfulness is an ongoing, lifelong exercise in reminding ourselves to be in the present moment. This will happen over and over and over again.

And the more often I can remind myself that my mind is focused more in the past or future and not on what is happening in the moment, the more I strengthen my mindfulness muscle.

Head in Hands

As a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever, I really want to “master” mindfulness. I somehow think that once I “figure it all out” I will always act in a mindful way. No stress, no resistance, no attachment, pure bliss, above being human.

Well, that’s not how it works.

I am human — even the Dalai Lama “makes mistakes” and is a lifelong student of mindfulness. Just because I have learned how to be more aware and experience a higher level of consciousness than I did, say, two years ago does not mean that I still don’t make mistakes.

Being mindful is not about being perfect. Being mindful is about being in each moment as often as possible, showing compassion to myself and others as often as possible, and fully experiencing my life situation as it is as often as possible.

For some of us, it might be helpful to be reminded that we are not superwomen and supermen. Though it can be easy to think that sometimes.

The path to enlightenment has twists and turns and roots and rocks and many stumbling blocks along the way. It’s not about avoiding the pitfalls; it’s about staying on the path in spite of them.

When we choose to practice presence, this does not mean we aren’t still human and make mistakes. If you find yourself forgetting that you are an imperfect human like the rest of us while on your path to more peace and ease in your life, gently remind yourself of these things:

All you can do is do your best.

And remember that “best” is not “perfect.” Imagine if each of us were more mindful just 10% more of the time. It doesn’t have to be 100% (and in reality won’t be) to make a positive difference.

Be compassionate.

Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability — it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.

Pick yourself up and try again.

When you catch yourself judging or resisting or attaching to what is (or was or might be), give yourself a little grace for even noticing this (that’s already a huge step!) and then try again.

We can all strive to be more mindful in our lives while accepting that we are merely human. Mindfulness does not have an end date of completion. There is no certificate or title to achieve. This means we get to work on it each and every day for the rest of our lives. And the mistakes we make along the way are simply opportunities to learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.

How have you noticed yourself trying to “master” personal growth? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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Don’t SHOULD All Over Yourself

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I really should….”?

This one small word has more power than we think — it causes stress, feeling “less than,” and places more importance on the outside world than on our internal needs and desires.

This one small word can also be used as a great excuse — excusing ourselves from not doing something we really don’t want to do and excusing ourselves from mustering up the motivation or courage to do the things we want to do.

Next time you find yourself “should-ing” all over yourself, take the time to honestly answer a couple of simple questions.

Head in Hands

Probably some of my most commonly used phrases are, “I really should go to yoga today” or “I should call my parents” or “I supposed I should do something different with my life.” It seems natural to say these words. They slip out of my mouth as if almost by magic. The word just sneaks its way into my vocabulary simply to taunt me.

When I find myself using “should” I have an immediate reaction that can range somewhere between self-loathing and complete self-denial.

As I became more aware of my self and what this one little word does to me, I started asking why I was even using it. And what might happen when I replaced that word with something else.

Here’s what I discovered. The word “should” typically does one of two things.

It either serves as a placeholder for doing something that I have absolutely no interest in doing and only feel an obligation to do based on something in the external world or an internal judgment.

Or it serves as a placeholder for doing something that I really want to do but am lacking the motivation or courage to commit.

Either way, this one little word causes unnecessary stress as it weighs us down and casts doubt on our desires and priorities.

Whether we use “should” as an excuse not to do something we don’t muster up the motivation to do or as a way to hold ourselves hostage to the obligations of others and unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we can all free ourselves by authentically answering these two questions and removing the word “should” from our vocabulary.

Is this something that I truly want to do and aligns with my values?

If yes, replace the “should” with a “want” or a “will” and make a commitment to do it. If no, continue to the next question.

Is it simply an unnecessary external or internal obligation that I have established?

If yes, free yourself from the obligation and remove this from your mental or physical to-do list.

Once we determine which bucket these “should’s” fall into, then it’s time to put systems or processes in place to make the “want’s” and “will’s” happen.

Instead of wasting energy “should-ing” all over ourselves, we can put that energy towards shaping our future through the choices we make in each moment without any of the unnecessary self-loathing or regret.

It is so empowering to know that we are in control of determining our values and actions. Ridding our vocabulary of the word “should” is one of the first steps to having a clearer sense of what we want and don’t want. And it creates space for having more energy to put into fulfilling our value-based commitments with ourselves.

What is one “should” you can either remove from your to-do list or change to a “will”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.


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Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has again 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, Discover Unconditional Well Being in the Present.

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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One Lovely Blog *Nomination*

I am so honored that Presence Matters has been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Inwardmarvels. It has been such a rewarding experience to spread the message of peace and ease over the past few months. I am so appreciative of my readers and followers and cannot thank you enough for your continued support and help spreading the peace!

Now, to the nomination … I am copying the rules as they have been posted by Inwardmarvels.

One Lovely Blog Awarddownload

The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by fellow bloggers for those newer and up-and-coming bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and also to help the new blogger to reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the fellow bloggers who choose them. This award recognizes bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog.

7 Facts about Myself

  1. I am the youngest of four.
  2. I strive for self-growth and development, holding the belief that we are the masters of our universe.
  3. I hiked the entire 2200+ miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2009.
  4. I love dogs, am allergic to cats and currently have no pets.
  5. I have lived in 10 different places in the last 11 years — some might call that a gypsy; I just say “yes” to life.
  6. I truly believe in the power of love and compassion, with a personal experience that the world is as beautiful of a place as you want it to be — it reflects what you project onto it.
  7. I have not had cable in over 8 years.

My 15 Nominations: You Are Awesome!!

  1. Awaken
  2. Mind Clouds
  3. writing to freedom
  4. Aminelle Nali – Splendiferous Doses of Happiness
  5. The Living Philosopher
  6. Slowishly
  7. That’s Another Story
  8. Happiness, Healthy and Hypnosis
  9. Soul Buds & Mind Blossoms
  10. Spiritual Success
  11. only here only now
  12. Let Yourself Learn
  13. Nature and Mind
  14. James Radcliffe
  15. thebuddhasutra


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Gratitude Rocks! Reasons to Jam Out

Life sucks.

My boss is a jerk.

This steak is overcooked.

Yes … there are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis.

Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

bigstock_Gratitude_22724237

I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don’t like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask “what are you grateful for?”

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don’t seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

“So, how do I go about doing this more often?” you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often.
    Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you’ll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.


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Presence Matters Invited to Be Guest Blogger on Kindness Blog

It is truly an honor to be asked to share this message on other blogs that are also doing amazing work spreading the message of peace, joy and goodness in the world!

Check it out and follow Kindness Blog — if you aren’t already — and keep spreading the love.

http://kindnessblog.com/2014/10/07/3-things-that-happen-when-you-have-inner-peace/

With gratitude …


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3 Ways to Turn Your Yoga Practice Upside Down

For many people, yoga is more than just a physical activity. It is also a mental and spiritual experience — often described as being quite meditative. But if you’re anything like me — and many other people I see and hear in my yoga class — it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

Have you ever noticed that the much-desired zen experience feels more akin to frustration or defeat than to an enlightened state?

Well, the good news is that you can turn your yoga practice into a deeper, more enlightened experience by doing three simple things.yoga pose

I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for almost two years and it is amazing how it wasn’t until very recently when I realized that I could use these 90 minutes for more than just practicing the 26 postures and getting my body into shape. This was an amazing opportunity to strengthen my ability to be mindful and present.

As someone who loves to “get it right” and “be the best,” I struggled with turning my yoga practice into anything beyond pushing myself to be better, stronger, calmer and mentally beating myself up when I felt like I wasn’t living up to that.

Then I had a breakthrough. And I turned my yoga practice around 180 degrees by doing these 3 things.

Change the track I listen to in my head.

90 minutes is a long time to keep the mind from wandering off and getting lost in the top hits track of the day. My solution? First, I found when I focus deeply on the words the instructor is saying instead of boarding each thought train that raced through my mind, I remained more present. Secondly, I changed the track in my mind from saying things like, “this is so hard” or “I’m so hot” or “why can’t I hold this posture like I could yesterday?” to “I am here … in this moment … and in this moment … and in this moment” over and over again keeping my thoughts more constant and present and, therefore, being able to better listen to my body.

Change the mask I wear.

I can scowl and grunt and tighten up my face when the postures feel challenging or I can choose to keep my face relaxed and even squeeze out a smile during a challenging pose. By making this small shift, I allow myself to relax, breathe and stay present with my body in that moment. I also find that when I exert less energy on reacting to a difficult posture, I have more energy to give to that posture and it becomes easier.

Practice continuous compassion.

I remind myself that I am constantly changing and I am different each and every day. My practice today is going to be different than my practice two days ago. If I need to sit down or come out of a posture early today, that’s okay. And, if I can change the track in my head it is actually easier to hear what my body needs in each moment and then I can be compassionate with myself when my body needs something today that it might not have needed yesterday.

Whether you are an avid yogi or just a fan of staying limber, you can use your yoga practice to not only deepen your exercise of body and soul but also deepen your practice of living in the present. By doing so, your practice will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine!

What do you do to make yoga a more meditative experience? Share your tips and tricks by leaving a comment.