Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self

( 17 )

Overview

From the author of the bestselling "Simple Abundance" comes a provocative and powerful life "bible" for women around the world. In this insightful and eloquent book, Sarah Ban Breathnach explores the nine stages necessary to living authentically: Sensing, Surviving, Settling, Stumbling, Selling Out, Starting Over, Searching, Striving, and finally, Something More.

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Overview

From the author of the bestselling "Simple Abundance" comes a provocative and powerful life "bible" for women around the world. In this insightful and eloquent book, Sarah Ban Breathnach explores the nine stages necessary to living authentically: Sensing, Surviving, Settling, Stumbling, Selling Out, Starting Over, Searching, Striving, and finally, Something More.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In Simple Abundance Sarah Ban Breathnach taught readers about the power of gratitude and passed on the wisdom that "all you have is all you need." In her new book, Something More, she explores the curious circumstance that many women find themselves experiencing today: They feel that they really ought to be happy, given all the wonderful things in their lives, but live with the sadness that there's still something missing. Ban Breathnach attributes that feeling to spiritual hunger, a hunger that has at its root a disconnection from an authentic sense of self. In Something More, she offers inspiration and practical advice for getting in touch with that authentic self and charts the nine stages — Sensing, Surviving, Settling, Stumbling, Selling Out, Starting Over, Searching, Striving, and finally, Something More — that women must go through to find it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Passion is truth's soul mate," writes Ban Breathnach in this follow-up to her stupendously successful Simple Abundance 1995. The author who helped millions discover the overlooked richness of everyday life by practicing gratitude now appends that message by urging us to heed our yearning for "something more." Understanding that most women are better at sacrificing themselves than at discovering and honoring their own passions, Ban Breathnach urges them to see the spiritual wisdom of "reembodiment," excavating from under layers of fear and disappointment their own moments of connection with a deeper, more authentic self. Offering a collection of teaching stories drawn from her own honestly rendered experience, as well as stories and pithy quotes from her friends and a host of notables Rumi, Virginia Woolf, Madonna et al., Ban Breathnach nudges readers beyond "settling and stumbling and surviving."

Although she aims to help readers explore the depths of their own hearts by using an "illustrated discovery journal" a collage of images and text meant to express the tastes and strivings of readers' authentic selves, the real power of this work, despite some workaday writing and concepts, lies in the unpretentious sincerity and raw immediacy of Ban Breathnach's many variations on the assertion that "At the end of the day, or at the end of a life, all we have is ourselves and love. And if we love ourselves, truly, madly, deeply, all we have is all we need." Writing not as a guru but as a friend who has learned to cherish her past, Ban Breathnach will galvanize her wide readership to believe we were all put on earth for something more than indifferent marriages and discarded dreams. Serving up self-worth and "repose of the soul" as the most priceless of attainments, she is a friend indeed.

Library Journal
Sensing. Surviving. Settling. Stumbling. Selling Out. Starting Over. Searching. Striving. Something More. According to Breathnach, spirituality columnist for Good Housekeeping, women must pass through these nine stages to achieve happiness. A follow-up to her New York Times best-selling Simple Abundance.
Library Journal
Sensing. Surviving. Settling. Stumbling. Selling Out. Starting Over. Searching. Striving. Something More. According to Breathnach, spirituality columnist for Good Housekeeping, women must pass through these nine stages to achieve happiness. A follow-up to her New York Times best-selling Simple Abundance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446677080
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 342,969
  • Product dimensions: 12.64 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

Our Authentic Lives

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness
...

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


Human beings, as far as I can tell, seem to be divided into two subspecies -- the resigned, who live in quiet desperation, and the exhausted, who exist in restless agitation. The quiet and resigned believe that our time on this Earth is random, a roll of cosmic dice, completely beyond our control. You know these folks when you hear them; their sighs speak volumes.

    The rest of us--the restless agitators--sense that there's got to be Something More to why we're here, something other than discovering what money, love, and sex have to do with the Meaning of Life. We grow our own organic vegetables, take our vitamins, drink mineral water, meditate, start study groups. We work out five days a week, treat ourselves to low-fat sorbet the other two, and then wonder why we're perpetually cranky. So what's the rest of it? we want to know (preferably by the end of the afternoon). This question distracts and disturbs us and keeps us worn to a raveling.

    But then, perhaps figuring out what money, love, and sex have to do with the texture and truth of our lives is the rest of it. Certainly the little face staring out from a vintage black-and-white photograph of me as a two-year-old seems determined to find out something. Hands grasping both arms of herhigh chair, chin set in defiance, jaws clenched, and dark, solemn eyes reveal an indomitable will to get it right, a will that's unnerving in one so small. This is not the face of an ingenue; this is an old soul in a new body--wary, wise to her own long past, on to the wiles of the world, and having miles to go before she sleeps. An experienced guerrilla, she's taking no prisoners this time around.

    I unearthed the photograph after my mother died. Like an archaeologist searching in the sand, I was sorting and sifting through the most amazing collection of paper shards from two women's lives, my mother's and my own--vintage greeting cards, old bankbooks, mass cards, Irish sweepstakes tickets, and old (but new to me) photographs. For all the reasons that drive historians crazy--flooded basements, moves, lapses in memory--there are only a few pictures of my childhood. Most of them are lost. But as I relived every family Hallmark moment I could find, I unearthed myself. I was as thrilled, I imagine, as the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter was when he found the tomb of the Egyptian boy-king, Tutankhamen.

    A picture is not just worth a thousand words, it's worth a Jungian personality inventory; for there, in black and white, are my personality assets or deficits (depending on the circumstances and who's making the assessment): strong, dogged, tenacious. Courageous. Steadfast, purposeful, unflinching. Stubborn--a defining trait summed up in a single snapshot.

    I wish I'd known from the beginning that I was born a strong woman. What a difference it would have made! I wish I'd known that I was born a courageous woman; I've spent so much of my life cowering. How many conversations would I not only have started but finished if I had known I possessed a warrior's heart? I wish I'd known that I'd been born to take on the world; I wouldn't have run from it for so long, but run to it with open arms.

    Flash forward nearly five decades later. A new photograph accidentally captures the same pose. Same heart-shaped face, same tilt of the head, same straightforward gaze, but a completely different aura surrounds the camera's subject. The steely stubbornness has become spiritual moxie; the child of the world has grown up to become a savvy innocent. The wariness has been transformed into a knowing, as in, Relax, I know what I'm doing. Better yet, all the tension is gone; the burden of the assignments her soul chose to tackle in this lifetime has been lifted; she's learned her lessons well. Her karma's been erased, an enormous divine debt has been paid off. Can this be possible? Perhaps I'm looking at the photos of two women related by blood from different eras, but I know better.


Chapter Two

Surprised by Joy

The soul is here for its own joy.

RUMI


The writer Cynthia Ozick believes that "after a certain number of years our faces become our biographies." I hope she's right. If she is, then the woman in the photograph is prima facie evidence to support my theory of reembodiment, a variation on the ancient spiritual principle of reincarnation.

    Reincarnation is the belief that, after our physical deaths, our souls are born again in another time, another place, and another body in order to continue our journey to peace and perfection by mastering spiritual lessons. The ancients believed that this deeply personal, authentic journey takes many lifetimes. But once the lessons are mastered, we get to move on, promoted, in a sense, to the next grade.

    But what if we're awake and willing to take an accelerated course during this Earthly visit? Why can't we ask Spirit right now to teach us the particular lessons that we need to speed up our journey to authenticity? Perhaps we can reach a state of enlightened reembodiment--here and now--in which we enrich and transform our lives by remembering and reexamining the dreams, loves, and fears of our own past.

    Yes, even the fears. I fully believe that we can alter the course of our destiny in wondrous ways when we invite into our lives the very lessons that frighten us most. This is because spiritual law transcends the laws of karma. We are meant to work our way through the fears; that's our karma. But we overcome them through Spirit. When we extend an invitation to meet our fears, even as our knees are knocking and our stomachs are churning, Heaven admires our mettle, applauds our audacity, and gifts us with Amazing Grace. Always remember, never forget: first the gesture, then the grace.

    In his book Crisis Points: Working Through Personal Problems, the English writer Julian Sleigh explores the idea of looking at the demons in our lives who make "us shrink in fear and revulsion" as bearers of gifts hidden under their wings. "If we challenge them and make them yield up their gifts," he says, "they will be satisfied and will fly away, leaving us to benefit from what they brought."

    Regardless of how we choose to look at our fears--whether we have caused our own problems or are simply caught in the snares of others', whether we are blindsided by a sudden crisis or have been running from one for a long time--Sleigh reminds us that we only have three choices:

1. Ignore it and hope it will go away. It won't.
2. Try and live with it. Not forever.
3. Look for the gift within our fear and benefit from it. When we do, we emerge on the other side of life, surprised by joy.

    "Be joyful," the poet Wendell Berry encourages us. "Because it is humanly possible."


Chapter Three

When the Student Is Ready

If you can learn from hard knocks, you can also learn
from soft touches
.

CAROLYN KENMORE


Our spiritual lessons are the myriad life experiences that come our way, especially the ones we don't understand. Our masters are soul-directed events.

    Soul-directed events push us past the perimeter of comfort and the safety of old patterns. Soul-directed events defy logic and ridicule reason. But soul-directed events--authentic moments--never betray us. It's true that frequently they leave us in a daze or catapult us into confusion. But, as with driving through a patch of fog that comes upon you suddenly, if you keep your heart steady in the same way you'd firmly hold the steering wheel, you can make it until the fog lifts. Suddenly you can see the road again. You can see where you're headed. You are returning to your Self.

    Reembodiment is not easy; if it were, everybody would be doing it. It's been my observation that only women of great discernment, women with no time to lose or squander, and women who frequently feel too close to the edge for comfort, are the best candidates. Women very much like you and me. We choose reembodiment not as a way out, but as a way to get on with it. To jump-start the process. Do you remember the 1980s expression "Get a life"? Well, reembodiment is how you get a love life--a life you love.

    Because the life you get is finally your own, not your mother's, not your sister's, not your partner's, not your best friend's life. And isn't this the miracle you've been praying for for as long as you can remember? I know because it was mine. Now when I look at the photograph of the woman I am, the woman I've become, the woman I always was but never knew, I am surprised by joy and astonished by awe. For the first time in my life I am not wanting, for I have finally come into my own.

    So can you.

    This is the miracle I would like to midwife for you. The reembodiment of your Self. We need to go back to the moment you lost your Self. For while you were almost certainly unaware of it at the time, there is a place where you veered off your authentic path. Fortunately for us, life's highway has as many on ramps as it does off ramps.

    On the way to authenticity, on the way to our soul-driven need to discover Something More, each of us has lived seven past lives, lives in which we have been: starting over, surviving, settling, stumbling, shattered, sensing, and searching for Something More. As in the psalmist's prayer, we must pass through the Valley of the Shadow of discouragement, denial, doubt, and darkness--before we emerge into the light of Something More.

    The soul of Simple Abundance was its first principle, gratitude. The soul of Something More is the last Simple Abundance principle, joy. Just as gratitude helped us move from lack to abundance in all facets of our lives, joy will help us as we move from imitation to authenticity.

    Many of us confuse happiness and joy. Happiness is often triggered by external events, events we usually have no control over--you get the promotion, he loves you back, they approve your mortgage application. Happiness camouflages a lot of fears.

    But joy is the absence of fear. Joy is your soul's knowledge that if you don't get the promotion, keep the relationship, or buy the house, it's because you weren't meant to. You're meant to have something better, something richer, something deeper, Something More. Joy is where your life began, with your first cry. Joy is your birthright.

    However, reclaiming joy as your birthright requires a profound inner shift in your reality. Most of us unconsciously create dramas in our minds, automatically expecting the worst from every situation, only to have our negative expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Inadvertently, we become authors of our own misfortune. And so we struggle from day to day, careening from crisis to crisis, bruised and battered by circumstances, without realizing that we have a choice.

    Imagine this scene. A woman arrives at Heaven's gate with more baggage than she can carry. "Why are you still hauling all this nonsense?" the angel at Celestial Control asks. "You were supposed to get rid of most of it this time around."

    "I know, but I could never kick the misery habit. It's a real drag, but misery loves company down on Earth. Besides, if you'd been born into my family, and married the four carbon-based life-forms I did ..."

    "Repeat and return, Sweetheart," the angel says sarcastically, stamping the woman's traveling papers. "Repeat and return. Into the Recycling Center until a counselor goes over your case."

    "How long will that be?"

    "Not a clue --could take a week, could take a couple hundred years. Depends on whether or not you'll be classified as hard-core. The hard-core boneheads get shipped out almost immediately."

    "What's a hard-core case?"

    "The lowest rung in Divine Devolution. Every time you go back, life keeps getting harder and harder. At some point your core gets shattered, and you hit rock bottom. Finally you look up, asking for help. Maybe even being grateful. You're grateful you're still alive to work through whatever spiritual assignment you brought with you into the world. Being grateful. That's the first step to the path of joy."

    Hold that thought.


Chapter Four

Something More: A Site Map

What would happen if one woman told the truth about
her life? The world would split open
.

MURIEL RUKEYSER

To be one woman, truly, wholly, is to be all women.

KATE BRAVERMAN


It would seem to be an easy thing, really, the reading of a book. You pick a book up, open it, fix your gaze, and begin. Well, maybe so and maybe not. As a reader, I'm hard on books and other writers. A passionate woman, I like my men and books to knock my socks off. It's got to be love at first sight. I need to be bowled over by an author's insight, to wonder how I lived before the book explained it all to me, or how the author knew me so well.

    In reality, while there is often a mystical bond between writer and reader, the author is just trying to figure out his or her own life, on the page, not mine. But as the Irish poet W. B. Yeats once told an admirer of his work, "If what I say resonates with you, it's merely because we are both branches on the same tree."

    So it is with this book. The wonderful writer Katherine Paterson has observed that part of the magic of books is that "they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else's life. And when we do that, we learn to sympathize with other people. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn't been able to see before."

    This was a very difficult book to write, and there were many times when I didn't believe I had the courage to finish it. Over a year and a half, I threw out three versions. Why? Because when I read what I'd written, there was no emotional connection. I had tried to tell the stories, especially my own, from a distance. But our souls long for communion and connection. I knew what I wanted to say, but I wasn't saying it; I was frightened to put myself out there in an even more honest and intimate way than I had in Simple Abundance. But as Jessamyn West tells us, "Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary."

    To be very frank, I was afraid that you'd read too much into every woman's story I recounted in this book and imagine that I was really writing about myself. "Good Lord, are they going to think that's me?" I'd ask. Finally, the page told me to stop stalling and get over it. The truth is that some of the stories are mine, but most are other women's. They are women in the public eye and women who have lived their lives far from the camera's gaze. But it shouldn't matter whose stories these are, because some might resonate with you so deeply they could be yours. They are. They are all our stories.

    We are all branches on the same tree.

    I've told you before that authenticity pushes us past our comfort zone--it's meant to. Reading this book will do the same. "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader," the poet Robert Frost confided, "No laughter for the writer, no laughter for the reader." I laughed and cried as I wrote this book, just as women laugh and cry when we give birth. And I sense that this will be your experience as well. We are giving birth: to our Authentic Selves. That's why I want to urge you to go slowly. If you get to a passage that's just too tough, save it for another day.

    At the end of each chapter are some enjoyable exercises intended to prime your well of inspiration and give you some psychic breathing space between the sections. They're called Field Work. Archaeology is our frame of reference, and as the archaeologist of your Self, it will be necessary for you to do some digging in the verdant field of your past, in order to aid the excavation process. I've placed various Field Work suggestions at the ends of specific chapters because I felt that the questions asked in the exercises complemented the journey undertaken in them. But if you're in the midst of a chapter that's difficult and want to turn ahead to the next set of excavation exercises, go ahead. And if you're a gal who likes to skip ahead, please be my guest. But at some point, if the reembodiment process intrigues you, you'll need to go back and pick up where you left off.

    That's really what this book is about anyway. Picking up where we left off on our deeply personal journey to Wholeness.

    I recommend that you read Something More once through and then go back and take your time rereading each chapter. There's a lot to think about when we invite the reembodiment process to begin--a lot to ponder in our hearts.

     You may be used to reading books that have creative exercises promising "Here's how to change your life."

    This is not one of those books.

    This is a book meant to be read, absorbed, and then mulled over until it begins to make sense with your own authentic interpretation. And whether you agree with me or not as we have a conversation on the page, please be willing to think about your life in a new way.

    Transformation is a slow process, so don't be discouraged. Take as long as you need. Do be gentle with yourself and allow your heart, mind, and spirit to process the stories and lessons you've read before you return for more. Don't worry--your Authentic Self will guide you. And your search will be all the more fulfilling.

    I hope your search for Something More is just that--more bountiful, more exciting, more exhilarating, more joyous, more miraculous than any personal journey you've ever been on before. Blessings on your courage. Your buried treasure lies within.

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Table of Contents

Our Authentic Lives 1
Our Authentic Lives 3
Surprised by Joy 6
When the Student Is Ready 8
Something More: A Site Map 12
Romancing the Soul 17
Facing Your Future by Excavating Your Past 19
The Book of Love 22
Small Things Forgotten 27
The Authentic Dig 29
The Chain of Chance 30
Suddenly-Seen Things 32
Starting Over 35
The Sacred Adventure 37
A Tale of Two Lives 38
Starting Over 39
Designing Women 40
Starting from Scratch 45
A Continuous Thread of Revelation 46
Back to the Beginning 50
Having It All 51
Divine Discontent 54
The MortalWound 57
Being Willing to Live for the Last Time 58
Introducing Your Life 60
Claiming the Events of Your Life 62
Field Work: Discovery and Explanation 64
Site Report 66
Surviving 67
Near-Life Experiences 69
Keeping Body and Soul Together 72
The Realm of the Unspeakable 74
The Silent Hemorrhaging of the Soul 77
Looking-Glass Shame 81
Our Pilgrimage Places 84
Your Own Natural Selection Process 89
Smoke-and-Mirror Survival 90
Survival by Surrender 94
Survival by Substitution 99
When Survival Is Called Success 102
Field Work: Authentic Success 107
Site Report 108
Field Work: Authentic Style 109
Site Report 110
Settling 111
O Pioneer 113
Settling Down 114
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace 115
Two for the Road 117
More Married Than Happy 118
Seeing Is Believing 122
A Crime Against Nature 126
Can This Marriage Be Saved? 131
Imagine You Don't Know Me 134
There Are Only Two Stories Worth Telling 140
A Lover Both Ancient and New 143
The Soul's Duty 144
Self-Immolation 146
Time Out 151
Settling For 153
Settling for the Sizzle 157
No One to Fear but Yourself 159
The Other Sure of Scared 163
Field Work: The Return to Self 166
Site Report 169
Field Work: Mystery 170
Site Report 171
Stumbling 173
The Wilderness 175
Braveheart 177
Destiny's Darlings 183
Two Ways to Live 186
The Divine Collaboration 190
Taking Liberties 192
Crossing the Threshold 195
A Woman of a Certain Age 198
Women's Work 202
Work with Me 205
Little Miss Perfect 206
Constant Craving 209
Field Work: Your Spiritual Journey 213
Site Report 216
Field Work: Some Day 217
Site Report 219
Shattered 221
The House of Belonging 223
Dwelling in the House of Spirit 229
Home Is Where Your Heart Is 231
A Victim of Circumstances 234
A Life of One's Own 236
The Hour of Lead 243
Making the Best of It 249
Giving Sorrow Words 253
Life After Loss 259
Sacramental Possibilities 260
Field Work: The House of Belonging 265
Site Report 267
Sensing 269
Sensing That There's Something More 271
Making the Connection 273
The Sentient Soul 274
The Secret Language of the Soul 275
Making Sense of It All 277
A Woman with a Past 279
The Great Escape 280
Hide-and-Seek 281
Bad Men 283
Even Bad Men Bring Gifts 284
It's the Thought That Counts 286
Earthly Tutorials 287
Becoming a Woman with a Past 291
The Holy Longing 293
The Karmic Clock 294
The Essential Union 297
Field Work: Relationships 299
Site Report 300
Field Work: Entertainment 301
Site Report 302
Something More 305
The Queen of Sheba 307
Soul Mates 312
The One Who Loves Your Pilgrim Soul 315
To Know and Be Known 318
The Heart Grown Brutal 320
Something More 323
With Thanks and Appreciation 327
Selected Bibliography 335
Index 341
For Further Information 351
About the Author 353
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First Chapter

A Continuous Thread of Revelation

Things come suitable to their time.
— Enid Bagnold

Did you ever see the film "National Velvet?" Based on the heartwarming book written by Enid Bangold, the film starred a teenage Elizabeth Taylor in her first leading role as Velvet Brown, a young English girl determined to transform an ordinary horse she'd won in a raffle into a racehorse. Every time she rides him, she sees herself trotting triumphantly into the winner's circle of the world's greatest steeplechase, the Grand National. Velvet believes that she and "The Pie" share a special destiny — that underneath his plain horsehide exterior beats the heart of a champion. But Velvet has a few obstacles in her path: she's fourteen, her parents think her dream is nonsense, and The Pie is actually unruly and untrained. Even if there were a trainer in the small English country village where she lives, there's no money for one, or for the race entrance fee or to hire a jockey, since girls are not permit to ride in England's most illustrious horse race. However, as all dreamers know, these are but minor hurdles when a determined young lady is taking fate for a ride.

Remember Velvet Brown the next time you've got a few obstacles to overcome. If you do, you'll be delighted to discover, as I have, that there are few things in life more I satisfying than accomplishing whatever "they" tell you can't be done.

Since first grade I've held very firm convictions about money, fame, dreams and destiny. The origins of these opinions or how I formed them so early was always a mystery to me, especially since they bore no resemblance to the philosophical fare served up at home. I discovered one of the sources soon after I embarked on my own deeply personal excavation process, as I recalled cherished books from my childhood. Prominent among them was NATIONAL VELVET. It had been given to me by my favorite aunt, who loved horses and wanted to share her enthusiasm with me. I'd finished the book practically in one sitting and declared, "If Velvet Brown can do it, so can I." It didn't matter that I hadn't a clue as to what my authentic it would be, but horseback riding seemed like a good place to start.

My parents couldn't afford horseback riding lessons and with then three children in the family, wouldn't let Aunt Em "play favorites" and pay for them. Coincidentally, a local Girl Scout troop was sponsoring a contest for the most enterprising Brownie, and first prize was free horseback riding lessons. I spent most of that entire year earning extra merit badges. All my hard work was worth it the day Aunt Em took me shopping for my new riding gear, followed by a celebratory lunch. We were both so proud of me; it was one of the happiest days of my life.

Two weeks later, Aunt Em died suddenly of a brain aneurysm; she was only thirty-four. The morning of her funeral I was supposed to take my first riding lesson, I was crushed, heartbroken incredulous; it was like the Fall from Paradise. Now, suddenly, I knew at any moment life, happiness, security, safety, and most of all, love, could be snatched away without warning. I refused to go to her funeral; I insisted that she couldn't be dead, that some dreadful mistake had been made.

And the riding lesson? The prize? Finally I had to make my first conscious choice, an act of self-assertion grounded in my own sense of what was right. I took the lesson. I knew in my heart that Em would have approved, but secretly I wondered what kind of wicked girl would go horseback riding on such a sad occasion. With the earnestness that only the young can bring to any serious endeavor, I threw myself into my first lesson. But as soon as it was over and I walked away from the barn, the tears started and in some ways haven't stopped yet.

Later, when I was twelve and just learning to jump, I fell off my horse; I was shaken but not badly injured. I should have gotten back on the horse immediately, but I didn't. The next week's lesson came and went, but I became afraid and never rode again. I never talked about it, just shrugged it off as if I'd lost interest.

Many years later I took my daughter to her first horseback riding lesson. While walking from my car to the barn, my sense memories kicked in and it all came flooding back to me: my beautiful aunt, her unconditional love for me, the comfort of our close companionship, her belief in me, my determination to win that contest, our celebration. And then, of course, the memory of my loss. In an instant I realized for the first time that I had buried my love of horseback riding beneath layers of fear, a little girl's guilt, and the recasting of a courageous choice into something shameful. Finally I could untangle the twisted truth of an ancient lie that had robbed me of so much joy.

Thirty-five years after I fell off a horse, I got back on one, starting from scratch in a beginner's class with seven-year-olds. It didn't matter. I was seven years old once again, too, grateful to be back in the saddle, thrilled to have recovered a precious portion of my relinquished Self. On my way home I stopped off at bookstore and got myself a brand-new copy of NATIONAL VELVET.

Even though you are searching for a pattern of personal, authentic pleasures and preferences, be prepared; you can't know what memories will be triggered as you reacquaint yourself with the girl you were once upon a time. But remember, you're not alone. Your Authentic Self is with you, a loving spiritual companion ready to help you unravel the tangled threads of memory, promise, and abandonment. I had no idea that the aromatic alchemy of warm leather, sweat, hay, and horses would act as conduits of such powerful soul memories for me. But, thanks to them, I could bring gentle emotional closure to a pivotal life experience.

Pain is part of the past. There isn't one of us who doesn't still carry childhood wounds. Some are more horrific than others, but no matter how painful your young memories are, there were also glorious moments that kept you alive, or you would not be here today. "The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order," writer Eudora Welty confides. With patience and quiet observation, these events will provide your authentic archaeologist with a "continuous thread of revelation" that will reassuringly lead you back to your Self.

Back to the Beginning

The past is not only that which happened but also that which could have happened but did not.
—Tess Gallagher

We will be taking many backward glances throughout our journey, so we ought to accept at the outset that no life retraced ever really begins at the beginning, especially a woman's life. For while the past asks only to be remembered, a woman's memory alters on her behalf and in her best interests. Memory — the vain old biddy — cannot resist penciling a few slight, cosmetic revisions in the margins of the past. Memory is also fickle. She must be wooed and courted if she is to succumb to our charms. Sometimes she surprises us with her generosity, and we recall moments with astonishing clarity. Most of the time, however, our memories are fragmented, like shards of pottery found during archaeological excavations. When this happens, we need to let patience do her perfect work as we piece back together the girl we left behind.

"The past is such a subtle thing," the writer Natalie Barney tells us. "[But] in the end, nothing else exists, everything is made of the past, even the future."

Having It All

Longing is all that lasts.
—Jennifer Stone

SIMPLE ABUNDANCE reassured you that "all you have is all you need" and showed you how to come to that awareness by using the mystical power of gratitude. Hopefully, thanks to gratitude, your life, like mine, was changed in wondrous ways for the better.

But now it might seem that I'm contradicting myself because I'm saying that it's okay if you still find yourself longing for Something More, even after being grateful, making positive changes, and growing into your authenticity.

There is no paradox here. Remember the notion that, if we want to live fulfilling lives, we must learn to distinguish between our wants and our needs? We still do. An example of a need is food; if this need is not met, we die from hunger. A want is a different thing: having it contributes to the enjoyment of our lives, but we could live without it or be satisfied to wait for it.

When we talk about Something More, it isn't wanting a fancier car, a bigger house, or a designer dress. Something More is what we need to fill our spiritual hunger.

You don't want Something More. You need Something More. You feel deep within that something crucial is missing. You're constantly looking for it, but since you don't know what it is, the best you can hope is that if you run across it, you'll recognize or remember it. In defending your life you might say, "I know I should be happy. I am, really. Don't misunderstand me. I've got a great husband and fabulous kids, and we're all healthy. I've got a good job, wonderful friends. Mom's doing well in the nursing home. Our finances are okay, the credit cards are under control, and we've even started to save a little money. Next spring we're going on a cruise to the Bahamas. We're comfortable and content. And every day I'm grateful for my blessings. So why do I feel so empty?"

You're not alone. Reba McEntire, one of country music's superstars, ponders, just as we all do: "No matter what you achieve in life, you're always wondering, 'Is there something I should be doing? Is there something I'm missing?' "

Words can't begin to express my gratitude for my wonderful life. I'm living most of my dreams. Every day I say aloud, "I'm the most blessed woman on Earth," and I mean it. Which is why I was as confounded as I was comforted after I discovered the English novelist Vita Sackville-West's despair during what was supposed to have been the happiest time of her life. In 1930 her book, THE EDWARDIANS, was an enormous critical and popular success, providing her with financial security after a lifetime of being one of the educated, genteel poor. Her success enabled Vita and her new husband Harold Nicolson to purchase the romantic but rundown Sissinghurst Castle and begin turning it into a renowned showplace. At thirty-eight she felt at the height of her creative energies and was in the throes of writing ALL PASSION SPENT, the novel that would be hailed her finest work. Still, she confessed to her best friend, Virginia Woolf': "If I, who am the most fortunate of women, can ask, 'What is life for?' how can other people live at all?" Not long after she confided her distress, she began a love affair which temporarily masked her depression but didn't alleviate it.

So here we are — you, Reba, Vita Sackville-West, and I — a group of talented, eclectic, even brilliant women. But at the end of the day, when we're finally alone, we're peering down into the black hole in our hearts. Our insatiable, inexplicable longing probes the emptiness much the same way you do when you can't keep your tongue out of the sensitive, empty spot that once held a decaying tooth.

"Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense that something is missing in our lives and — fruitlessly — search 'out there' for answers," writer Emily Hancock observes. "What's often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic self."

Excerpted from Something More, published by Warner Books. Copyright; 1998 Sarah Ban Breathnach.

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Interviews & Essays

On November 11, 1998, barnesandnoble.com welcome Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of SIMPLE ABUNDANCE and THE SIMPLE ABUNDANCE JOURNAL OF GRATITUDE. She has appeared five times on "Oprah," where her JOURNAL OF GRATITUDE has inspired a recurring segment. Her latest book is SOMETHING MORE.



Jessekay: Good evening. Sarah Ban Breathnach is a writer who's full of surprises. In her last last book, she told women they have all they need. Now she's telling women to go for glory by reaching for their deepest desires. What happened, Sarah, between books?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: The great unexpected success of SIMPLE ABUNDANCE gave me a windfall. I could have anything I wanted. And I saw, no matter how much you accumulate or how much you accomplish, why is there always a nagging feeling there is something more?


Jessekay: Let me be combative for a moment. Isn't there always going to be something over the horizon to nag at us? Is that the something more you mean?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: No. That's not "something more." Let's start with what "something more" isn't. It's more like divine discontent -- it's soul-driven. It isn't a million dollars in the bank. It's not a home featured in Architectural Digest. It's not a love affair with a movie star. I call these things "something else" -- and they can be pleasant. Something more, is what I describe as "repose of the soul." The only way we have that repose -- that complete peace -- is if we bind the wounds. The book examines what I think of as the soul's three secret wounds: 1) self loathing; 2) betrayal -- and by that I mean understanding that no one can betray you, you can only betray yourself; 3) marital or relationship indifference. I like to point out a distinction. In SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, I was having a conversation between friends. In SOMETHING MORE, we speak of how we try to bind the wounds and try all the ways we can't.


Question: The spiritual principals you speak of are mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts. What makes the way you present it different?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: A great question. I like to think I'm a translator. If the spiritual truths seem like a foreign language -- and if you're hurting, the language of an ancient text can go right over you -- a good translator can help.


Question: When I speak of an attitude of gratitude with certain of my friends they say I'm in a fantasyland and denying there is negativity in the world. How do I get through to these people, that it's not all bad and that we can create our futures with our language?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: I'd give up even trying to convince these people! They're not in a place where they can hear. You're throwing away time, energy and emotion -- the three precious resources -- in trying to help them. Just keep witnessing the attitude of gratitude in your own life.


Jessekay: I've been very impressed as I read the AOL message boards in the SBB area. So many women find in your book the strength to leave bad marriages.

Sarah Ban Breathnach: I've been getting questions from women about their fear that they'll have to leave their marriages. I say: You don't have to leave a bad marriage. I'm not advocating mass flight to divorce lawyers! I'm saying, if you're in an indifferent marriage, try to talk -- to your partner, to God. The chord I strike is this: Someone understands how lonely I have been. What I do for them on the page is bear witness to their pain.


Jessekay: Do you have male readers? And who are they?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: I do. And I adore them. They're all different. I'm frequently asked why I write for women only. The truth is: I don't know how a man thinks. And I have to write from an authentic place. It's not gender-specific, though. There is a cross-over.


Question: Do you think that the lack of fulfillment and spirituality so widely testified to in America is a symptom of the existential alienation of life in modern civilization?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: Who knows?


Jessekay: You write about THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. Indeed, you are the first woman I've read on the subject who found it as disappointing and phony as I did. She sacrificed her right to happiness to an imagined code of duty. What film or book do you think shows women as people worthy of something more?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: The new idea is that martyrdom for the sake of convention -- which is what everyone thinks about your life -- is not pretty. Women are saying: I don't need to sacrifice myself on that altar. We need to grow up and speak to one another as adults. And we need to see that in books and films.


Question: Do you think that the preoccupation of feminists in the '60s and '70s on economic equality has resulted in a culture of excessive materialism among young women today?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: We're all drowning in materialism. And it was true in the '50s, too. Americans have always equated success with possessions.


Jessekay: You've dealt with this admirably. You made a fortune -- and you tithe. How is that working out?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: Just as it was promised in the Bible. If you bring gifts into God's storeroom, you'll be more blessed than you can imagine. That has happened to me. I can't conceive of living "the good life" without giving back. It's a thank-you note to the universe.


Question: Do you believe in soulmates and the wisdom of following the soul's lead?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: Absolutely! The next book I want to write is an exploration of soulmates.


Question: When will she be writing a newsletter? How can I get on the mailing list?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: There will be one. You can get on the mailing list by emailing your physical address to SIMABUND@AOL.


Question: Sarah, SOMETHING MORE seemed as if it was written just for me. Thank you for your insight, your wisdom, and your courage to write this book for all of us who are in the wilderness.

Let me add....You say how hard it was to write. Were you also in that wilderness?

Sarah Ban Breathnach: Absolutely. I'm not the same woman who started to write SIMPLE ABUNDANCE. The woman who started to write SOMETHING MORE died. I am the woman who rose from her ashes. I was in the wilderness. I wrote myself out. That's why I know each of us deserves nothing less in life than something more.


Jessekay: Sarah, thank you. We can't wait to have you back -- and see you in the next stage of this riveting process.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2007

    Excellent Work!

    This book is much more 'meaty' in an intellectual/emotional sense than Simple Abundance -- I think her personal catharsis helped launch her best work yet! -- (Although I have yet to read 'Moving On')

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2001

    Mixed feelings about this book.

    I loved Simple Abundance, and began really loving this book. However she lost me when she went on about encouraging a man to walk away from a 30+ year marriage just because he was no longer enraptured with passion. How many of us married people feel that passion all the time? I was really dissappointed with the marriage 'advice' in this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2000

    Food For Your Soul - What Every Woman Needs to Hear

    I can't tell you everything this book did for me - I can only gush about it and say that after reading it I bought copies for three of my best friends. At a low point in my marriage, my husband bought this for me 'because (I) seem(ed) so sad.' I ignored it for months, and when I finally started reading it I couldn't put it down. I usually don't abuse books by turning down corners, but this book 'spoke to me!' It is now battle scarred with all the turned down pages and notations I made. Skip the part about making collections of your past and jump right into the short and sweet chapters that reaffirm our often fragile self-esteem and convince us of our self worth. This book covers all the stupid things we do to ourselves, all the lies we tell ourselves, the ways we put our needs last... Not exactly a book on feminism, but it certainly made me a little more assertive in letting my husband know I was no longer willing to just settle for what he dished out. 'Something More' is my new battle cry, and I'm working every day toward becoming the new me, the 'Queen of Sheba' in THIS household (for now anyhow!) I'm sure my husband had no clue that this book would change my perspective on my life (and what I want from it) so completely!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 17, 2009

    Something More ~ An Exquisite Read

    Simply a treasure.
    Exquisite.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2002

    Provoking readings

    This book has a lot of good reading and makes several good points. However, it also suggests that people are going to change by making collages and staring at them routinely. This to me was not helpful. A worthwhile book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2002

    Something More Gave Me...SOmething More

    I too thought it was a wonderful book.....it simply rang true. I needed a jolt in a couple of areas, and this book was gentle but firm in filling that task. I plan on keeping it readily within reach for boosters as needed. Highly recommend!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2001

    A BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD READ!!!!!!

    This book is one that everyone should read. So many of us 'settle' for want we have or want we believe we are worthy of. This book has taught me that rather than settling for what comes your way- to go out and get it. Don't wait for the right thing to come your way, it may never come along. If you haven't read this book, you should. I couldn't put the book down. I read it in 3 settings and I am not much of a reader. You will not be dissappionted by this book. I have realized that I am not going to settle for anything just for comfort. I am going to go out there in the world and GET WHAT I WANT AND DESERVE. Life is to precious to settle. You may not argree with everything thing she says, but it will give you the courage to think about everything. I wish you all a very learning experience from this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2000

    This book spoke to my Spirit

    A few months ago,I began trying to find out why my 42nd Birthyear was such a difficult one.I had lost a dear friend to liver cancer,my favorite cat,Charlie to undiagnosed FeLV,& my husband's father to a heart attack. I also had a health scare of my own. I had ignored my Soul & Spirit's voice for a long time.I placed more emphasis on everyone else's needs before my own.I felt lost & needed to rediscover my 'Authentic Self'. This book made me rethink my current life. In this book,I found many stories of courage, love,trust,and honesty. We women wear so many hats & sometimes our 'Authentic Selves'get lost in the process. It was nice to find ways in which I could reconnect to my SOul & Spirit. Thanks,Sarah

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2000

    Opened my eyes

    This inspirational book will be on my night table for a long time. I am a new widow of 63. I was married for forty years and it is now time to look into myself. This terrific book is helping me do it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2012

    Inspiration and Wrds of Wisdom

    This is a wonderful book. I read it daily and gain strength to make it through the day. Sara's writings are easy to read and enjoy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 10, 2011

    Wonderfull book people who are ready for change.Sarah is a great writer.Sarah inspires women

    This book and all the rest of Sarahs books are great...Sarah writes from the Heart.looking for some fresh ways to think feel and prosper..Her books have always made me stop and think sarah makes sense.Sarah has helped me learn fun waysto enjoy my life children and holidays more makeing my home a Happier place taking what we have and turning it in to something beautifull .Her ideas inspire as women we sometimes dont alow are body to rest take time for ourselves.I hope you all enjoy her books as much as i have .....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2001

    This woman is so inspirational!

    Someone had given me Simple Abundance quite a few years ago and I did not start reading it until last year. That is a wonderful book,but this work is truly the greatest. It is so inspiring, not only to women but for all of us that are living this life. She really touches home on so many daily happenings in just a regular persons existance. I would truly like to meet her and listen to her speak. I want to know her background and would like to know who inspired her. She is truly well read and insightful and quotes many writers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2000

    The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter from this candle....

    Searching for a way to fill the emptiness from something missing in your life? Read 'SOMETHING MORE'. This is one of the best books I've read in years. Great for a gift to someone struggling with their life, what it has been, is, and what it can be in the future. I'm on my third time reading this and still find it amazing. Sarah touches the readers' soul with her perspective and reaches out with tenderness and hope. Grasping the concept of our lives, (especially as women) and living from being a girl in our childhood to a woman in adulthood in this book she shares with us the trial of the same journey we are all on....life. A well rounded book filled with suggestions,guidance and support. Don't miss the opportunity to experience the revelation of your journey , the sharing of your heart with another in her words, and in the end when you are finished reading it- the beginning of your search for 'Something More'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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