Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self

Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self

by Sarah Ban Breathnach
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Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach

In this eloquent and evocative book, Sarah Ban Breathnach encourages you to become an archaeologist of your Self: to plumb your past with its unfulfilled longings, forgotten pleasures, and abandoned dreams, to "excavate" the authentic woman buried inside.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780742906648
Publication date: 03/02/2012

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents

Our Authentic Lives1
Our Authentic Lives3
Surprised by Joy6
When the Student Is Ready8
Something More: A Site Map12
Romancing the Soul17
Facing Your Future by Excavating Your Past19
The Book of Love22
Small Things Forgotten27
The Authentic Dig29
The Chain of Chance30
Suddenly-Seen Things32
Starting Over35
The Sacred Adventure37
A Tale of Two Lives38
Starting Over39
Designing Women40
Starting from Scratch45
A Continuous Thread of Revelation46
Back to the Beginning50
Having It All51
Divine Discontent54
The MortalWound57
Being Willing to Live for the Last Time58
Introducing Your Life60
Claiming the Events of Your Life62
Field Work: Discovery and Explanation64
Site Report66
Near-Life Experiences69
Keeping Body and Soul Together72
The Realm of the Unspeakable74
The Silent Hemorrhaging of the Soul77
Looking-Glass Shame81
Our Pilgrimage Places84
Your Own Natural Selection Process89
Smoke-and-Mirror Survival90
Survival by Surrender94
Survival by Substitution99
When Survival Is Called Success102
Field Work: Authentic Success107
Site Report108
Field Work: Authentic Style109
Site Report110
O Pioneer113
Settling Down114
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace115
Two for the Road117
More Married Than Happy118
Seeing Is Believing122
A Crime Against Nature126
Can This Marriage Be Saved?131
Imagine You Don't Know Me134
There Are Only Two Stories Worth Telling140
A Lover Both Ancient and New143
The Soul's Duty144
Time Out151
Settling For153
Settling for the Sizzle157
No One to Fear but Yourself159
The Other Sure of Scared163
Field Work: The Return to Self166
Site Report169
Field Work: Mystery170
Site Report171
The Wilderness175
Destiny's Darlings183
Two Ways to Live186
The Divine Collaboration190
Taking Liberties192
Crossing the Threshold195
A Woman of a Certain Age198
Women's Work202
Work with Me205
Little Miss Perfect206
Constant Craving209
Field Work: Your Spiritual Journey213
Site Report216
Field Work: Some Day217
Site Report219
The House of Belonging223
Dwelling in the House of Spirit229
Home Is Where Your Heart Is231
A Victim of Circumstances234
A Life of One's Own236
The Hour of Lead243
Making the Best of It249
Giving Sorrow Words253
Life After Loss259
Sacramental Possibilities260
Field Work: The House of Belonging265
Site Report267
Sensing That There's Something More271
Making the Connection273
The Sentient Soul274
The Secret Language of the Soul275
Making Sense of It All277
A Woman with a Past279
The Great Escape280
Bad Men283
Even Bad Men Bring Gifts284
It's the Thought That Counts286
Earthly Tutorials287
Becoming a Woman with a Past291
The Holy Longing293
The Karmic Clock294
The Essential Union297
Field Work: Relationships299
Site Report300
Field Work: Entertainment301
Site Report302
Something More305
The Queen of Sheba307
Soul Mates312
The One Who Loves Your Pilgrim Soul315
To Know and Be Known318
The Heart Grown Brutal320
Something More 323
With Thanks and Appreciation327
Selected Bibliography335
For Further Information351
About the Author353


On November 11, 1998, 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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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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')
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Missylady More than 1 year ago
Simply a treasure. Exquisite.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too thought it was a wonderful 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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tammy krause More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 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'.