Amanda Johnson

Love the life you have and have the life you want


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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.

embracing the ocean

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? 

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Improve Your Relationships by Remembering These 3 Things

Have you ever struggled with maintaining a centered sense of self whilst in an intimate relationship?

Maintaining this more enlightened state seems to get harder the closer we get to people. Relationships offer a number of challenges including how they seem to make this whole “presence thing” more difficult.

In the hopes to make this a bit easier, I started to pay attention to when I felt further from my centered self and what seems to help put me back on the more mindful path.

Through this exploration, I discovered that we can all experience more conscious relationships by remembering three important things.

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I’ve recently taken a lot of time to get to know myself and work on me. I began to notice that I am making some significant strides in terms of how I interact with myself, how I interact with my friends and how I move through the world as a more present, mindful human.

Then … I got into a romantic relationship.

This was my first serious relationship in two years. And, with my new sense of self, I started to think that maybe I had figured out this whole relationship thing after all.

Then it started to become obvious to me that the work I did with myself didn’t necessarily translate seamlessly to being with another person.

I was reminded that there are still deeper, darker areas I have yet to explore and work on in order to be more mindful and conscious when with another person and not simply moving through life alone.

Strive to be wrong

Going with the flow can come quite naturally to us. Humans are great at enduring change. We are highly adaptive. And, yet, have you noticed how ironclad fisted we can get about being “right”? It can cause so much unnecessary pain and suffering — specifically in close relationships. Not only can it harm the other person at the receiving end of our righteousness, it also hinders us from growing.

In order to learn and grow, we must be wrong. Think about it, if we know everything already then there is nothing left we can learn. If we are not learning, we cannot grow.

It is only when we release our hold on being “right” that we can truly be open and enjoy the beauty of a close relationship.

Take responsibility for our emotions

“He just makes me so mad.” “She ruined the whole evening.” “He really gets under my skin.”

When we say things like this we are immediately casting blame outside ourselves for how we feel and react in this world. Sometimes it might seem like the actions of others cause our reactions or feelings — but this is not the case. The actions of others do have effects in the world just as our actions have effects. However, our emotions and thoughts are purely the effect of our own causes.

The more we can take responsibility for our inner state of being and release the need to be responsible for someone else’s, the easier and more peaceful life becomes.

Notice what the other person exposes in us

When we see something we like, it’s a projection of what we like within ourselves. When we think someone is angry, it’s a projection of what we know anger to look like based on how we react when we’re angry. When we allow ourselves to get irritated with something (or someone), it is because that thing reminds us of a trait we have and don’t like.

It is through this exposure that we can choose to either get angry and push people away or expect them to change, or we can use this as an opportunity to more deeply explore ourselves and better understand what it is we are uncomfortable having exposed.

It is by exploring the parts of ourselves that we don’t like — not changing others — that we can experience happier and healthier relationships with ourselves and with others.

When we are wiling to be wrong, take responsibility for our emotions and examine the dark corners of ourselves, we can experience empowering, sustainable relationships — whether they are with the stranger in the supermarket or with our lifelong partner.

What tips do you have for being more mindful in relationships? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.


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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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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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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.