“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives, but are grateful for the abundance that’s present . . . the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.”
–Sarah Ban Breathnach – Simple Abundance
Sarah Ban Breathnach, an American author who helped millions of women start keeping a ‘gratitude journal,’ wasn’t always grateful herself.
A few years before she wrote her mega-bestseller, Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, she was the victim of a freak accident. Sitting in a restaurant, she was hit on the head by a falling ceiling tile. For weeks, as she recovered, she lay in her darkened bedroom discouraged and despairing.
Her injury led to soul searching. She realized she was discontented and frustrated with her life.
One day, as she began to feel a bit better, she got up, went to the kitchen table, and decided to take inventory of her life’s assets. She determined not to leave the table until she had written down 100 blessings. That list changed her perspective and her life. She awakened to the reality that despite life’s difficulties she was very blessed.
She embraced her life purpose: writing Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, a book designed to encourage and inspire other women. It sold seven million copies.
What we focus on expands. Our attention can be shifted from what isn’t working in our lives to what is. That one choice emboldens our perspective, and empowers our ability to create a life we love one moment at a time.
Tell me Dear Reader, why is that when I sit down to write these articles to you, I often realize the universe is writing them to me? Just yesterday, I felt discouraged and overwhelmed. I had big plans for a morning with the luxury of ‘free time.’ But urgent needs arose.
I received phone calls from people most important in my life, two of my daughters. They were long calls, filled with great difficulties that each were facing. I was spent before I even hit my chair as a therapist.
Now, as I sit with the perspective of a good night’s sleep, I am astonished and a bit emotional about what a blessing it was that I wasn’t working; that I could be there for two of my precious girls; that they would call me to confide; and that together we could sort some things out and breathe hope back to life!
When I focus on the challenging events of life as being blessings versus burdens, I surrender to the reality that there is always something bigger going on in life that we can’t initially see. When we are open to the possibilities embedded in life’s difficulties we become humble enough to trust and see the wonder in it all.
I want to hold a place for the sacred feeling of well-being, even awe. I was being reminded anew to ‘count my blessings.’
That is what Simple Abundance invites us to do—write down five things we are thankful for every day—a pretty simple path to a transformation of our outlook on life!
I knew a woman who was unjustly jailed. She was strip searched, put in a prison jump suit, and thrown in with other female prisoners who had committed serious crimes. She was scared and sickened by how she could have ever ended up incarcerated with the kind of life she had been living — a good life. Hers was a very minor infraction, more of a mistake than a crime.
But because of the person she is, even imprisoned she began to find comfort in the small things in life. She treasured the letters she received from her family. She was glad for work that kept her busy. She heard other women’s stories and realized how many resources she had in life that they didn’t. She shifted her focus from her lack to theirs. When we embrace our blessedness, we enter a state of grace in which we experience wonder and abundance. We want to share that feeling.
That was the experience of this heroine. She organized group prayer at night for those who wanted to join. She taught them new hair styles and they spent time braiding each other’s hair. She listened to their stories and encouraged them. Because of her attitude she went from being an inmate to being a ministering angel. Her focus on her own abundance, despite a grave difficulty, transformed her experience.
There will always be difficulties in life calling for our response. We can shape our experience by keeping our eyes keenly trained on the blessings to be gleaned. Gratitude is an awakening to the blessings cloaked in our difficulties.
Gratitude makes us happier, and more giving. It deepens our awareness and helps us wake up to the small wonders of life whether it’s seeing an eagle fly over our house or the miracle of a beating heart, ceaselessly lending us life, without conscious assistance from us.
It’s only fair to say that Sarah Ban Breathnach didn’t live happily ever after despite a focus on gratitude that led to enormous success and wealth. She lost everything! But I feel certain, that among the losses she suffered, it didn’t include the loss of her grateful heart. She has a new book for children just out, it’s called The Best Part of the Day. Beautifully illustrated and lyrically written, this ‘goodnight’ story encourages children to find at least one moment in each day that is worthy of celebration.
Indeed there is a lot to celebrate in life despite our losses.
Comedian Martin Short’s new memoir, I Must Say, My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, includes a very poignant part of his life story, the death of both parents and a brother before he was 20, and recently the death of his wife, Nancy Dolman. In his book he reflects on how having an upbeat life philosophy has kept him resilient.
“It’s not whether the glass is half empty, or half full,” he said, “I’m just so glad I have a glass!”
Here’s wishing you the happiness that comes from giving thanks!