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 Learning This One Thing Changed My Life

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Why is life so f*cking hard sometimes?

Up until a couple of years ago, this was a recurring question for me. My life was filled with stress, worry, never being good enough, always wanting something more, never knowing what that something was.

My critic ran the show.

I was depressed, moody, uncertain of what to do with my life. I felt like I was going nowhere. And I was so tired of feeling that way.

Then I finally woke up and I started asking a different question.

Why would I want to experience life this way any longer?

It’s pretty clear that most of us walk around every day feeling pretty miserable.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who have woken up and realize that there is more to life than going through the motions, feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing it could be easier.

Well, I’m here to tell you that we can all wake up and feel less miserable.

When I finally decided that I didn’t want to feel that way anymore, some pretty incredible things started to happen in my life.

And it all started with one crazy idea.

I am not my thoughts.

I am not my emotions either. Whoa.

When we recognize that we are not our thoughts or emotions, we can question them without questioning our true identity. Knowing that I am not the thoughts in my head, I can then sit back and observe them for what they are—just thoughts. Knowing that I am not the feelings in my body, I can observe and feel the emotions for exactly what they are—physical sensations in my body attached to a thought.

I learned that I am okay.

Part of knowing that I’m actually the observer of what is going on meant that I could be okay no matter what happened. If I am not my thoughts, then I am not the one who needs to be perfect (that’s my inner critic). It was my thoughts (aka ego) telling me that I had to be or do it a certain way. When I started to question that, I started to notice that even when I don’t act or do things a certain way, I’m still okay. (I dare you to try it. Think of one thing you always do and stop doing it. See what happens.)

Life got so much easier.

Seriously. Things just feel so much easier when I’m not constantly believing every little thought that pops into my head. My relationships got easier—I wasn’t constantly worried about what the other person thought about me. Work got easier—I wasn’t constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough or would somehow “mess up.” And alone time got easier because I learned to enjoy the moment while watching my thoughts from a distance.

Things worked out.

When I started exploring this new way of being, I went from living out of fear and scarcity to living from a place of trust and abundance. I went from thinking “what if?” to trusting that it will work out. And guess what? It did! I quit my job with no plan B … and everything has worked out!

I still have those days even now (though they are fewer and farther between for sure) when I slip back into feeling depressed or unhappy or judgmental. The difference is I have learned to accept that this is just part of being human and how to find my way back to my true self.

When we start to question our thoughts, we can change our entire experience of living. [Tweet that!]

What has been one of the most important things you have learned to help you when you’re feeling down or out of sorts? Share in the comments below and help others learn new ways to improve their experience of life.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to sign up to receive my weekly updates straight to your inbox. When you sign up you’ll receive my 10 dirty little secrets to loving the life I have. Also, next week I will be launching my new video series, “Out with the Old (Beliefs), In with the New” which you won’t want to miss!


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Do You Make These Six Common Mistakes When Meditating?

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I remember the first time I tried to meditate and thought, “This is so not what I thought it would be!”

I had a very clear image in my mind of what meditating was supposed to be—and what it wasn’t. And what I instead discovered is that my preconceived notions actually kept me from experiencing the true benefits of meditation.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why meditating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps you have some of the same misconceptions that I initially had.

To make sure we are reaping the true benefits of meditation, we first need to understand some of the most common mistakes people make when starting a meditation practice.

1. Trying to stop our thoughts

I was under the impression that when people meditate they have no thoughts. When I tried to do this, I failed miserably.

When we attempt to stop our thoughts during meditation we are making meditation way more difficult than it needs to be. Meditating is not about not thinking. It is about observing our thoughts without getting carried away by them.

The more often we can practice observing our thoughts as if we are watching cars pass by, the more we strengthen our ability to do this throughout the day.

2. Assuming one must sit cross-legged on a cushion

I had a picture in my mind that the only way to properly meditate was to sit on a fancy cushion with incense burning nearby. Given I have neither of those things (and wasn’t planning to buy them anytime soon), meditation seemed to be an undoable act.

Then, I tried something crazy. I sat on my couch in the middle of my studio and practiced my meditation.

The benefits of meditation are not found on a cushion. They can be found anywhere we choose to close our eyes, bring our awareness to our breath, and watch our thoughts pass us by.

3. Only meditating in a quiet place

Along with assuming I had to sit on a cushion to meditate, I also believed that it could only be done in a quiet place. If I wasn’t able to make time for meditation while at home, I didn’t get my meditation in for the day. So I started meditating in other places.

When we quiet our mind, we do not need to be in a quiet place to meditate. We can even use the sounds around us to bring us deeper into our awareness. 

4. Blocking off a minimum of 30 minutes each day to meditate

When I started meditating, I thought that the only way I’d see benefits is if I did it for at least 30 minutes a day. Not that there is anything wrong with meditating for more than 30 minutes in one sitting—this can actually be very beneficial.

The problem can arise when we assume that anything less isn’t worthwhile, and we miss an opportunity to use the 5 minutes we do have to center ourselves and cultivate our meditation practice.

5. Expecting an outcome

My first experience meditating left me saying, “That’s it?” As if something incredible was supposed to happen once I opened my eyes.

When we meditate, it’s not about reaching any particular outcome—like feeling rejuvenated or shifting our entire perspective on something. While these things may occur, going into meditation with an expectation of a particular outcome will simply defeat the purpose.

Meditation isn’t about “doing” or “achieving”—it’s about “being” and “observing.” [Tweet that!]

6. Only using silent meditation

For someone like me whose mind tends to go a mile a minute, sitting in silence was probably one of the most painful things I ever tried to do.

Once I discovered the ease of using a guided meditation app on my phone, I turned a whole new corner with meditation.

Guided meditations can be just what we need to observe our thoughts and experience some stillness.

Meditation can sometimes have a bad rap. Mainly this is because some of us have preconceived notions about how it’s “supposed” to be done which actually keep us from truly experiencing the benefits that meditation has to offer.

See what happens if we let go of some of these expectations and instead let meditation be exactly what it is intended to be—a chance to bring awareness to our breath, observe our thoughts, and create space to experience a little more inner peace in the moment.

What is your favorite mediation tip or trick? Share in the comments below and help others discover new ways to experience the benefits of meditating.


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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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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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How to Live a Soulful Existence by Setting Intentions for the New Year

On the last day of the year, it is a great opportunity to set aside some time and come up with our intentions for the year to come.

Resolutions are the more common list we each make 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 — let’s do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which we can make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment that support and uphold the life we want.

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I have tried many things in the past from resolutions to goals to simply remaining open to what life may bring — each with varying levels of success. This year I wanted to try something new.

A friend of mine challenged me to come up with my intentions for 2015. It was a beautiful exercise of sitting with myself and getting in touch with not just what I want to do next year but how I want to live.

With her challenge in mind, I sat down and thought about how a person might identify one’s intentions. These are more than just a list of goals or a list of things to start or stop doing. They are how we want to experience life in each moment. They serve as a guide that directs each of our decisions and helps us manifest that which we want to see more of in the world.

To identify one’s intentions — and not just a list of resolutions — I suggest trying the following things:

Get quiet

Whether this is through meditation or simply observing the thoughts in our head and letting them be, getting quiet allows us to get in touch with our deeper, inner self — the wisdom within.

Reflect on the past year

When we make a list of our accomplishments, we can celebrate all that we already possess and how powerful we can be. To do this, a mentor of mine encourages us to close our eyes and visualize the person we were on January 1, 2014 (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Then, step out of that person and take a “mental walk” towards the person we are today (physically, emotionally, spiritually), identifying all of the accomplishments along the way.

It is equally important to identify any areas where we didn’t necessarily hit the mark — not so that we can judge or experience any self-hate (see #3) but rather so that we can realistically accept where we are currently.

Avoid judgement of self, others and situations

It is inevitable that things on our to-do list never got checked off or we didn’t reach some of our goals. That is okay. It is important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Instead of judging our current situation, simply observe it. Equally it is helpful not to compare ourselves with others. We are all on our own path and are exactly where we need to be at this very moment.

Get in touch with what we want to have more of in life

Once we have identified what we experienced as accomplishments and areas where we still want to improve, we can ask ourselves what feeling or experience we want to have more of in life. These will most likely start showing up as themes as we look at each accomplishment and ask “what was I going for here?” or “what did I experience/feel when I accomplished this?” We can ask the same of those areas where we want to improve by asking ourselves “if I did (more of) this, what do I expect to feel/experience?” These feelings or experiences can serve as our intentions — our inner wisdom and guide — from which we hang everything else.

We can still set goals that uphold our intentions and are illustrative of what we plan to experience. Just remember that goals — like life — change and need to be continuously reexamined and modified to fit current situations. So long as our decisions uphold and illustrate our intentions, we can live a mindful, soulful, intentional existence.

When you think about what you have accomplished and what you still want to improve upon, what feeling or experience are you looking to have more of in your life?