Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want

Craving More Freedom? Then Check This Out

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Have you ever pondered the question, “What is true freedom?”

Now, there are seemingly many kinds of “freedom” out there—financial, creative, time, sexual, etc.

The other day I was having a conversation with the amazing Tara Tag about what financial freedom means. And it dawned on me that financial freedom isn’t having a certain amount of money—it’s knowing that I am able to make a choice based on what’s true for me instead of what’s in my bank account.

I realized that it’s a perception thing—not necessarily reality. I have a choice. I mean, I literally have a choice to spend money on something or put it on a credit card or find a way to create more money or not.

Then I noticed how this is true in so many other areas of my life. In all of these, I have a choice and can, therefore, experience freedom in all of them in any moment.

If we want to be free, we need to acknowledge (and exercise) the choice we have in each moment. {Tweet that!}

In this video, I’m going to share with you just what freedom means to me and how we can go about experiencing more of it in our lives.

Being free doesn’t just mean having a choice (we all have a choice in each and every moment); it means consciously exercising that choice. {Tweet that, too!}

Now it’s your turn! What does “freedom” mean to you?

Head on over to the blog to share your wisdom in the comments below this video. I would love to see what sort of conversation we can drum up.

So many of us crave more freedom (whether that is financial, location, time, etc.), yet how many of us go through life on auto-pilot more often than not? Please pass this along to anyone you may know who craves more freedom and could benefit from hearing this timeless reminder again.

With gratitude …

PS If you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign up here to receive a few other lessons I’ve learned to experience more freedom and truly love the life I have AND be the first to hear about an exciting project I’m working on!

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How to Have Less Stress by Cleaning up Your Beliefs: Part 1

The other day I found myself feeling a little out of sorts and kind of cranky.

Then I noticed that my apartment was starting to get messy—piles of papers were forming all over my small space and dust bunnies were gathering under my book cases.

So I took some time to straighten things up and put things away and it was incredible what a difference that made!

Then it dawned on me. Just like how we need to spring clean our living spaces to feel a sense of renewal and less stress, we need to do the same thing with our beliefs from time-to-time.

Just like papers, clothes, or boxes that sit untouched for months (or years) start piling up and can add to our feeling of heaviness and dissatisfaction, our beliefs (when gone unexamined) can have the same effect.

And I started by pulling out and looking at some of my beliefs about what it means to put something out into the world that may not be “perfect.” So I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit and created my first video series to walk through how I see decluttering our beliefs is a lot like decluttering our closets and it begins with pulling everything out so we can take stock of what we have.

In this first video of my 3-part series, I’ll share the 3 things to remember when starting the process of cleaning out our old beliefs so we can have less stress and more peace.

Now for this week’s challenge.

I want you to begin taking stock of your thoughts, noticing how they’re showing up and how they affect your life. Ask yourself, “What happens in my body when I believe this thought? How do I act and what are the outcomes or results of that thought?” I am fascinated to find out what you learn through this process, so please take the moment and share some of your discoveries in the comments below.

This week’s “tweetable:” We are not our thoughts, just like we are not the box of yearbooks or pairs of shoes in our closet. {Tweet that!}

Want to receive next week’s video directly to your inbox? Be sure to sign up so as to not miss out on what we do with our beliefs once we have pulled them all out!


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When Trying to Figure It out No Longer Works, Try Asking Different Questions

I’m not sure if it’s something that I ate or something going on in the stratosphere but I have been riddled with self-doubt and anxiety lately. And, for some reason, there seems to be a lot of this going around right now.

I really wanted to try to solve this mystery and provide some answers to why this is happening and what I can do about it. In my process to do so and in preparation to share my findings with others, a couple of timely things occurred.

First, I happened to pick up a book (which I highly recommend anyone interested in this topic read immediately) that I read a couple of years ago and was reminded that I do not need to try and fix anything or even figure it out. As Michael Singer says in his book, “When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, ‘What should I do about it?’ Ask, ‘What part of me is being disturbed by this?’”

Secondly, I spoke with my father who shared some beautiful — and very vulnerable — wisdom with me. He said that possibly the greatest thing he has learned in his life is that he doesn’t have the answers — just lots of questions. And I think there is a lot to learn from this little gem.

These insights helped me shift away from trying to figure it out to asking different questions.

When we think we should have the answer or know what is going to happen, we simply create more stress and anxiety in our life. Which I’m pretty sure is the exact thing we are trying to escape by “knowing.”

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In those moments of anxiety, self-doubt and uncertainty it’s not about having the answer, it’s about asking different questions.

What’s going on inside right now?

Check in. Like Michael Singer says, notice what part is being disturbed. What is happening in the body? What is happening in the mind? What sensations do I notice? Simply observe. It is not about judging it or changing it. Just tuning in.

Who is it that notices this going on?

Ever wondered who it was that was observing all the various thoughts and sensations going on in the body? That is the observer. The consciousness. The true self.

My guided meditation today used a brilliant metaphor for the mind being the clear blue skies. Our thoughts and feelings are the passing clouds. And sometimes they are dark thunderclouds and it can seem difficult to think about anything else. But the clear blue skies are always there — just think about an airplane going above the clouds. And it is from these clear blue skies that we observe the thoughts and feelings. It is from these clear blue skies that we find our self. We are not the clouds below — our thoughts and feelings — we are that which observes.

Is anything wrong in this moment?

This one can be tricky because we sometimes like to think that certain feelings are “wrong” or that the thought that we are having is “wrong” but if we get really honest with ourselves and remember that no feeling or thought is neither wrong nor right — it just is — then we can more often than not answer this question with a resounding “no.”

Most times we can take comfort in the fact that we have our health and our safety. We are not in immediate danger. Just because we feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong — it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. That is part of human existence.

Now, if you’re still wondering what to do when feeling a surge of self-doubt or anxiety, all I can say is that I don’t have the answer nor do I think I need to.

See what happens if instead of tasking our minds to trying to figure it out we simply observe what is going on, sit with the discomfort and ask who is it that notices all of this from those clear blue skies?

What one or two things can you start doing when experiencing feelings of self-doubt or anxiety? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear what resonates most with you!


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The Only “What If” Question We Ever Need to Ask Again

I cannot count how many times I wonder things like, “what if this happens” or “what if that happens” and “oh my god, but what if…?!”

These questions and focusing on the future are not nearly as helpful as I want them to be. Instead of getting answers and feeling better about things, I often end up with more questions and feeling a lot worse.

So … I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best to refrain from asking any “what if” question EXCEPT for the only one that actually helps me experience more peace, ease and flow in my life. One that actually provides me with more answers and feeling better than before I asked it.

Wanna know what the one “what if” question is ….?

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WHAT IF IT ISN’T TRUE?

I imagine many of us have stories that we tell ourselves on a daily (if not hourly) basis that limit us or hold us back. These stories usually aren’t fairytales or even awesomely powerful “I can do it” stories.

They are more often than not stories that tell us how we aren’t good enough or why things don’t work out for us or why we could never do this or that.

It is these stories that make up our belief system — about ourselves and about the world around us.

And it is our beliefs that beget our actions and behaviors. So … if we want to change a behavior, the first place to look is at the stories we tell ourselves and what beliefs we carry.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

If we want to start moving the needle in the direction towards global sanity, we need to start by looking within at the beliefs we each hold that are driving the same ol’ behavior over and over again.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start this process.

Acknowledge that a story and belief even exist.

Before we can change anything, we must first admit it exists. We need to admit that the beliefs we hold to be absolute truth are just based on stories that we have been telling ourselves for as long as we can remember. And while these stories are based on our personal experiences or the experiences others have shared with us, they are still our creative interpretation of reality which started to form our view of ourselves and the world. Before we can do anything else, we need to take the first step (albeit possibly the hardest) and say, “This is a story I keep telling myself.”

Question the belief.

Now that we have acknowledged that our beliefs are nothing more than stories we made up and reinforced time and time again, we can begin to question them. We can start to ask ourselves, “what if this isn’t true?” Another way to do this is to question what other possibilities exist? And one of my favorite ways to reframe our beliefs is to ask “who would I be without this story?” This helps us take more responsibility in how we are behaving based on the story or thought we choose to believe. The more often we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat and make powerful, conscious choices on what we believe and how we act, the more often we will experience peace, ease and flow in the world.

Replace your stories with new ones.

Once we start shifting our perspective and see that there are other stories that are equally as valid and probably even serve us better, then we can start to form new beliefs. This can be done by establishing some positive habits and rituals like gratitude, affirmations, setting soulful intentions and focusing on that which we want to bring more of into our lives.

The great thing about stories is that they can be rewritten.

I get it — we like our stories. We think they are who we are. They are comfortable and we know them all by heart!

But when they hold us back and limit us from being our best authentic self, then it is time to get out the red pen and start making some edits. It might even mean scrapping the whole story altogether and starting over from scratch.

What is one story you keep telling yourself over and over again that you are willing to acknowledge, question and possibly even replace? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


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3 Paths to Get What We Want — Which One Do You Choose?

A few months ago, I challenged myself to eliminate caffeine from my diet for 2 weeks. The 2 weeks turned into almost 2 months. Initially, I started exploring alternatives like herbal teas and even decaf espresso at times. Then, I started to notice how in my search to expand my possibilities and remove my need for something I actually started to institute a new limitation. All of sudden, I couldn’t drink caffeine. I was afraid to drink it as it might reignite my addiction.

This became its own limitation. Just another extreme. When I noticed this, I consciously ordered a cup of coffee. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, I appreciated the fact that I permitted myself to know what I do and do not want at any given time.

When we are about to do something or not do something it is because we are going for something we want in life — to relax, fit into our jeans or just feel better.

This may come in the form of making resolutions and choosing to restrict certain things from our lives. Or perhaps by indulging in anything and everything that we want.

Either way, these both limit us from making mindful, purposeful choices in each moment.

There is a third — and much more empowering — way to get what we want in life.

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The Buddha once said that “a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification … was the path of wisdom.”

When we are about to do something to get closer to what we want, there are three ways we typically come to this conclusion.

“I can’t so I guess I won’t”

When I eliminated caffeine from my diet, I initially did so from a conscious place — choosing not to drink it mainly for health reasons. Then, it became an “I can’t so I guess I won’t” decision which was very limiting and no longer based on the few specific reasons I had originally identified.

When we make decisions based out of self-denial, we lose an opportunity to get to know ourselves and get really clear on why we choose not to do something. We also end up making decisions out of fear, judgement, resistance or attachment.

“I can so of course I will”

Before I gave up caffeine for those few weeks, I had gotten into a habit of having one or two cups of coffee each morning not because I actually wanted it but because I could … and I always had. It had become just as limiting because I was no longer checking in and making a conscious decision to have it.

When we permit ourselves to indulge in whatever we want just because we can, we miss an opportunity to really check in and see if that is what we want in this moment. We become a slave to ourselves and lose a chance to actively guide our life in the direction we want it to go.

“I can and I choose …”

… to do it or not. In either case, I empower myself to choose what serves me best in that moment. We can still choose not to do something in which case it is done from a place of knowledge and acceptance of oneself and not out of fear, laziness or greed.

When we realize we can do something and choose not to, we demonstrate our strength and power in the world. When we realize we can do something and choose to do it, we honor ourselves and have a chance to practice acceptance and letting go.

Living at the extremes of life can ultimately be quite limiting. The joy comes when we live somewhere in the balance of it all.

Striving to live a life in moderation is more than saying “yes” to some things and “no” to others — it is about getting quiet and making mindful decisions in each moment that reflect and uphold our values and principles in the world.

That is how we can ultimately get what we want out of life.

Think of one thing you consistently deny yourself of or indulge in. Is that based in a value or principle and, if so, what is it? If not, think about what it would feel like to empower yourself to no longer live by this limitation and instead consciously choose in each moment what you want to do.


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How to Move from Comparison to Self-Acceptance

A friend and I were chatting the other day and she mentioned that she felt discouraged about her yoga practice because she had been comparing herself to how often I was going. I giggled when she said this because I had just that morning felt discouraged when I couldn’t get myself out of bed thinking how she always gets up early and accomplishes so much in the morning.

It was so funny to me that both of us saw the other as being better or doing more when in reality we both are amazing and wonderful in our own, unique way.

Have you ever gone on Facebook or Instagram and thought to yourself, “everyone’s life seems so happy and amazing … why isn’t mine like that all the time?”

When we compare ourselves to others, we deny all the beautiful, authentic qualities we possess and think that who we are in this moment is not good enough.

So how do we move from comparison to self-acceptance?

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The practice of mindfulness is about celebrating and cultivating our authentic self in each and every moment. By practicing a few simple techniques, we create more space and opportunity to feel compassion, acceptance and love the person we are in this moment.

When we are about to compare ourselves with others, it is a great opportunity to check in and try a few simple things.

    • Take a moment or two and observe what is going on inside. Is there a feeling or a thought? Just check in with non-judgmental awareness and allow the feeling or thought to exist.
    • Gently remind yourself that every time we look at someone else as being more or having more, someone is most likely saying the same thing about us. This can help us experience more compassion for ourself and for others.
    • Shift the thought from “what others have or do” to “what do I have or do” and celebrate who you are even if in that particular moment there is doubt or anger or fear or frustration. Allow yourself to be reminded of the things you do well.

Especially with social media, it can seem nearly impossible to avoid comparing ourselves with others. It is something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. But, the more often I practice mindfulness, the more often I am aware of when I start to go down that path and how to navigate back out and into my beautiful, amazing, unique self.

When we accept and celebrate who we are in each moment, we experience so much more peace and joy in our lives. Of course, this won’t happen overnight and is an ongoing practice — but each time we remind ourselves to check in and have more self-love, it gets a little bit easier.

What are three wonderful, unique qualities you can celebrate today? 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 once again been published on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having more peace and joy in life.

I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out my latest article, Soulful Intentions for the New Yearif you didn’t get a chance to read it last week.

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The first moments of a New Year present opportunity to set aside some time to come up with our intentions for the year ahead.

Resolutions are the more common as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention, which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year—another 365 days of possibility—I want do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which to make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment. Decisions that support and uphold the life I desire. [click the link to read more]

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 …