What does it mean to live in abundance? To live in gratitude for what we have? And how could we ever, in this world of constant upgrading to newer, better, faster “stuff,” feel as if we have enough? How could we possibly honor that we are living an abundant life? How can we ever be grateful for what we have and stop needing more?
Merriam Webster defines ABUNDANCE as: marked by great plenty, amply supplied. It further defines AMPLY as: having or providing enough or more than enough of what is needed. These definitions spark a question: “What would it be like to live a life in which you always knew you had more than enough of what you needed?”
I used to wonder about this, until one day, in about my fourth decade, I realized that not only did I have much more than “enough” and certainly more than I needed, but actually always had.
I recently watched a re-run of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday in which she interviewed Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of “Simple Abundance – A Day Book of Comfort and Joy.” During the introduction, I pulled my own worn copy off the shelf. I’d received it in 1996 from a dear friend who’d begun her spiritual quest right around the same time as me and we’d both been excited about the books’ concept.
I opened to the foreword and read the quote by Margaret Young. “Often people … try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” I took a moment to reflect on this, and then settled in to watch the interview.
What I found astonishing while doing so, were the twists the author’s life took after her books huge success. As she honestly answered Oprah’s questions, I found myself more than once staring at the television with mouth ajar.
As it turns out, after her book’s 100-plus week run on the New York Times Bestseller list and her resulting exorbitant wealth, Sarah Ban Breathnach wound up on her sister’s doorstep with no money left. It would seem that she neglected to practice what she’d written.
From the moment the book came “off” the list, it was downhill from there. Not for the published piece, but for its author. It appeared as if Sarah simply forgot what it means to live in Simple Abundance. She admitted to Oprah and those of us watching, that with her new found success and life of “Not so simple” abundance, her need for more became greater than her gratitude for what she had.
As I listened to her discussion of where she “got to,” I found myself gripped with anger. Out of nowhere, I was mad at this woman I’d never met, for not being grateful and for needing more, even when she’d had so, so much! I understand now of course, that I was projecting, but my thought was, “Really Sarah! I would be so, so, so grateful if only I’d get the chance to prove it!”
The irony in my judgment towards her was that the resentful thought stemmed from exactly what I was judging her for. I’d instantly gone to: “If only I had more, I would appreciate it.” Luckily I caught myself quickly before I ran with it. It’s not that my millions and millions of dollars aren’t enough for me, because my bank account doesn’t quite register the number of zeros hers did, but I DO have an abundant life, with everything I could ever need, yet sometimes I find myself wanting more.
Yes, my life is abundant in love and blessings, in friends and trusted confidantes. It is abundant in furnishings and clothing, in food and sustenance, in overwhelming admiration for my son and my husband. It is abundant in invitations and inclusions, in writing work and … well, just ABUNDANT!! But, being totally honest, I have to admit that I can sometimes forget how blessed I am. I can still get caught up in the idea of wanting more material things.
So, as quickly as my flash of anger came, it dissipated, because I realized Sarah and I are both so human. So utterly human. And all I could think of was “Thank you Sarah,“ because when I am gifted with a reminder to be grateful, I can pause with grace and honestly wonder: “My goodness, how could I ever possibly think I need more than what I have?”
No, I don’t have a dozen pairs of Christian Louboutins in my closet as Sarah did after her first royalty check, but I do have one pair. One very fabulous red soled pair that I almost never wear because the heel is just too high for me these days.
After the program ended, I took my “red soled shoes” out and looked carefully at them. “When I wear these am I different? Do I matter more? Am I better?” And the answer across the board was “No. Absolutely No!” However, I do admit that I feel a bit more something. There is an attitude of confidence that comes with slipping them on that isn’t always present when I wear “non-Louboutins.”
Continuing to look at the unique shoe I asked myself, “What was it that compelled me to buy them?” In the instant my answer came to me, I understood absolutely why Sarah felt that having not just one pair but many would make her feel as if she’d somehow arrived. I also felt guilty for being angry at her, because I absolutely understand her quest for success and her confusion about what defined that success. And so, I couldn’t help but send love out through the universe to her.
As for a closet full of any shoes, I can honestly say today that if I couldn’t pay for them up front, I would hate them.
So, what was it about this interview that compelled me to write today? I wanted to validate the message my spirit took away from it. In doing so, I immediately created a Microsoft document titled: “What NOT to Do When My Next Book is Published.” I realized with delight that I never even thought of using the word “IF” over “When” in the title, and as I typed a few bullet points garnered from the interview I decided that this document was going to be an important one to keep.
After clicking “Save,” I immediately created another: “What TO Do When My Next Book is Published.” The first sentence I typed in bold letters under the heading was: “BE GRATEFUL! ALWAYS REMEMBER that you already had much, much more than enough even long before you started.”
Then I clicked “Save” and closed the laptop with a great big smile of gratitude on my face.
(photo credits: 1.) thesanctuaryyogaroom.com 2. rancholapuerta.com)